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EDUCATION > Study Abroad

Grade-schooler dreams of attending MIT and future life with friends after studying in U.S.

  • September 26, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 32
  • JMH Translation

“I heard students at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) do hackathons. They told me that they once found a police car at the top of a school building in the morning.”  


Taito Morishita [spelling not confirmed], 10, a fourth-grader at a private elementary school in Tokyo, has a twinkle in his eye when he talks about his experiences in the U.S.


Morishita achieved the highest score in Japan on a national standardized test for elementary school students organized by the major Japanese cram school operator Yotsuya Otsuka and joined a “group to visit Ivy League schools in America” this summer. The school operator awarded the students who received the top thirty scores on the national test for fourth-graders in June with a free 10-day study program in the U.S. The program was launched in 2008 with the aim of developing students’ global perspectives by visiting such Ivy League universities as Columbia and Harvard as well as a boarding school.


Morishita says he had always wanted to travel overseas. After returning to Japan, he says, “I stopped cramming for tests. I’m a different person now.”


Before going to the U.S., he used to study for more than six hours a day at home and cram school. On weekdays, he studied until past 10 p.m. He thought it would be better to study than to play videogames or watch TV. He often read books between classes at school. He thought that studying hard and getting good grades was the only way to achieve his dream of enrolling in Nada Junior High School in Kobe City and becoming a doctor.


But Morishita’s visit to the U.S. changed his mind. When he attended lectures at Harvard University and other schools, the researchers said things such as, “It’s important to cooperate with peers,” “Find something fun to do,” and “Studying hard isn’t enough.” He also engaged in heated discussions on the definition of “freedom” and other topics with the other students who participated in the study abroad program and felt he had never had such a meaningful experience.


When he returned to school for the second semester, Morishita tried to actively develop a circle of friends. He played with them on weekends and spent less time studying Japanese, math, science, and social studies, and instead started studying English and French.


Morishita also realized that he is interested in engineering after experiencing MIT’s playful atmosphere and exhibits. “I want to be a doctor, but I also want to make a device that can outperform the iPhone,” he says. His dreams keep getting bigger. “I’m so glad I was able to visit the U.S.! I’m enjoying life more now and can envision what my future will be like with my friends by my side.”

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