A student from Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy who taught herself to speak Japanese has spoken of a life-changing trip to the country.
Lauren Stacey, 16, spent two weeks in Japan with staff and 26 students from six schools across Derbyshire as part of the county’s twinning agreement with the city of Toyota.
During her time there, Lauren delivered a speech in Japanese to an audience of about 100 people who were gathered for an eco-conference at the school that the students were visiting.
The eco-conference hit the headlines and Lauren and her fellow students were featured on the front of the local newspaper and on TV.
Lauren has been teaching herself to speak Japanese since January this year by using the internet and textbooks.
Her passion for the country comes from a love of Manga, comics which are read by people of all ages in Japan.
She said: “I got into Manga when I was younger and started drawing the characters myself.
I just love Japan and really wanted to visit so I thought I would try to teach myself the language.
“I found it quite challenging at first because I had never come into contact with the language before.
“I really wanted to say thankyou to all the host families who had helped us during the trip so with some help I wrote a speech which was translated into Japanese and I spoke at the conference. I was very nervous but managed to do it and I was told that I was word perfect, which is amazing.”
Lauren, of Ilkeston, said she would love to live in Japan and her dream would be to pursue a career in Manga comic illustration.
She said: “I love everything about Japan, it’s such a modern culture, everyone is so nice and polite. The trip was amazing and for someone like me it was life-changing.”
Sally Castle, Head of Year Nine at OIEA, accompanied Lauren on the trip, during which the group saw the sights and spent a week at Asahi Junior High School.
Among the places they visited were the Golden Temple in Kyoto, the Peace Gardens at Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima.
Mrs Castle said the trip, which also sees Japanese students visiting Derbyshire, was an amazing experience.
She said: “I think it teaches the students to be independent and resilient and they make new friends.
It allows them to see that there’s much more out there for them and for students like Lauren, who is so passionate about Japan, it is truly life-changing.
She really wants to pursue the Manga illustrating as a career and people in Japan thought she was very talented.
“Our students made new friendships often with only a few words of English. The students’ willingness to trust and learn was a pleasure to see and I was grateful to be a part of memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.”