Japanese exchange student joins fraternity

Heather Thomas

Exchange student gets involved with Americans

Approximately 9,000 miles from home, Kai Hashimoto, a freshman foreign exchange student, has found friends and mentors in his Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity brothers at Kent State.

“The best is they always help out,” Hashimoto said about his brothers. “It’s like a family; it’s very comfortable.”

Hashimoto is from Tokyo, Japan, and began studying English as a Second Language at Kent State last fall and will stay until May. He chose Kent State because it has an exchange program with his Japanese school, Rikkyo University.

When he began the ESL program, Hashimoto said he noticed most of the exchange students were hanging out with people from their native country, but he wanted to get involved with Americans.

“Last semester I was looking for (an) American opportunity, and it just happened my roommate (was in) Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity,” Hashimoto said. “He invited me to come to a fraternity party and I met a lot of American people and they (were) very kind and cool people.”

Hashimoto was initiated last fall, even though his friend and fraternity brother Nathan Noll said he barely knew any English and didn’t comprehend much because fraternities do not exist in Japan.

“I would sit with (Kai) for hours trying to explain it to him, and it was so difficult because a fraternity is a weird, abstract thing to begin with,” said Noll, a senior advertising major.

Throughout the semester, Hashimoto’s English improved greatly, and he said he understands what the fraternity is now, and it is fun.

Hashimoto said being in the fraternity helped him better his English because he has to speak English there, and “it is easy to ask questions, and I can say my worries (to my brothers), and they are always listening to solve (problems) together.”

Noll said he and the fraternity brothers are always introducing new American experiences to Kai, such as hockey games and skiing.

“He’s basically just like any other of my friends, except I’m always trying to influence him like, ‘Wait till you do this in America,’” Noll said.

Hashimoto said turning 21 in Japan does not have the same significance as it does in America. For his 21st birthday, his brothers took him to a bar, which he said was a very different experience.

Hashimoto is adapting to his schoolwork with ease at Kent State, stating that good grades are not a problem, and Japanese school is much harder. “(Without the fraternity), I don’t think he would have made … deep friendships (like) he did with us,” Noll said. “He wouldn’t have quite the understanding. He might have seen the American way, but he wouldn’t have understood it.”

Contact greek life reporter Heather Thomas at [email protected].