By: Haley Regan
Name: Takehiro Matsuo
Year in school: Sophomore
Q: When did you start learning English?
A: When I was 12, so right after I entered middle school. It’s been like seven years now — long time.
Q: You mentioned studying in North Carolina before, how was that?
A: I’m 19 so my life is short, but that was the biggest part of my life I think. I started learning English when I was 12, and I studied abroad when I was 15, so that was only three years I had been learning English. My skill was poor, I couldn’t understand English or what the other people were saying at all. So that was so hard. In the first three months, I was feeling like, ‘Why do I suck so much at this. I’m terrible, I can’t do it.’ So I was so depressed. I was not really feeling homesick; I didn’t miss my friends, I didn’t miss my family, I was like, ‘I hate myself.’ But, after being there for half a year, I was getting better. So, I felt like it was fun to be in a foreign country because I can learn about the culture and the language, and meet other people. That was fun. That was really fun.
Q: Would you say you were legitimately depressed in the beginning?
A: I was so depressed I think. Not really sad, because I actually had a half-brother who was also an exchange student. He was from Germany. He was really good at English. Even in the first day in the United States, I was just confused, but he was speaking with all the people. I was jealous of him, but also I was impressed by him. Also, at the same time, I felt, like, compared to him. What am I? So I was depressed in the first three months. Now I have a Japanese friend around me. In North Carolina, I had no Japanese friends. I was the only one who could speak Japanese, so I was really alone. But, after struggling there, I could get the skill. So I’m so happy with it.
Q: Are you going to live here at any point?
A: Yeah, I’m thinking about it. I have to leave here in December, then go back to Japan. Then I’m thinking of transferring from my Japanese university to somewhere in the United States. I’m really thinking about it.
Q: How would your family feel about that?
A: I think the only one who is really complaining about it is maybe my grandma. My grandma is like my mother to me, because my mother is really sick. So, instead of my mother, my grandma has been taking care of me all of my life. ... My grandma of course is older than my mother, so she is like, “What if I die?”. And I tell her not to say that. I’m like, “I’m feeling sad if you die, of course, but this is my life. This is my story, I want to go to the United states, but I love you too.” She may understand me. She said OK to study abroad again, so maybe she will understand me. I mean we have airplanes, we can go back and forth anytime.
— Edited by Yu Kyung Lee