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Local student is excited for year of study in Japan

December 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - North Hagerstown High School senior Amanda Yazdani will earn her final credits toward her diploma within two weeks, but she won't be starting college or a career until sometime in 2006.

However, the 17-year-old is not taking a year off - she's spending a year as an exchange student in Japan.

Amanda, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who has spent most of her life in Hagerstown, will be living in Japan and studying as a language student there for the second time in less than a year. But, unlike her first visit that lasted two months, Amanda will spend an entire year there starting in March 2005.

Following her brief experience earlier this year, Amanda said she was hooked on Japanese culture and could not wait to return.

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"When I came back, I was like, 'I'm doing this (a one-year program) for sure,'" she said.

Amanda stayed in Takatsuki, Japan, near Osaka, which has a population of 359,000, more than nine times that of Hagerstown. Amanda said having seen it once before will help her adjust to being abroad for the entire year.

"I've already dealt with the culture shock," Amanda said. "When I first got there, I would get dizzy in a car. There was just so much going on around you."

Amanda said she immersed herself in the foreign culture, changing her eating habits, traveling nearly entirely by trains and spending much of her recreation time enjoying one of the favorite pastimes of the Japanese, karaoke singing.

Amanda and her twin sister, Angie, became interested in Japanese culture through anime, Japanese animation, when they were still in grade school, said their mother, Gloria Yazdani.

"I remember her and her sister got into anime at the same time (about fourth grade)," Yazdani said. "The next thing I knew, they were speaking Japanese to me. It was like, 'wait a minute.'"

Amanda said her interest in all things Japanese continued to grow as she got older. Now, with her increased proficiency in Japanese, she plans to pursue a degree in the language, likely at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) or Georgetown University, upon her return.

"I know a lot of people like anime, but they don't end up going to Japan," Amanda said. "I just took it to another level.

"I guess Pokémon isn't such a bad thing," she joked.

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