Bound to impress with Japan visit

STACEY OLIVER
Last updated 15:35 28/08/2012
Harrison Gibb-Faumina
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
TALENTED STUDENT: Harrison Gibb-Faumina will spend five months in Japan on a Language Immersion Award Scholarship. He is also a member of Awatapu College’s ukulele band, The All Sorts.

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Described as flamboyant, Harrison Gibb-Faumina is a born entertainer - a theatre junkie, he says. But his latest adventure is taking place on a different kind of stage - 9362 kilometres away in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan.

Last Thursday, Harrison left New Zealand and travelled to the small town of Matsukawa. He will live there for five months, "soaking up as much Japanese culture as possible".

It's not a holiday but a Language Immersion Award scholarship funded through the Education Ministry. The scholarship allows up to 16 students to spend a fully-funded semester in the country of a language they study at school.

Japanese culture has always captured Harrison's attention, he says. "I enjoy Japanese food and Japanese culture was always something that stood out to me. It was something I enjoyed learning about."

He has studied the language since his first year at high school. "Hopefully I can kind of hold a conversation, ask where's the toilet."

It's a modest statement from a teenager who recently won the Massey Central Districts Japanese speech contest for the second time.

"I'm nervous, excited, a little stressed with having to get school done before I go but other than that I think I'm more excited than anything else . . . I hope it's good.

"I want to go and soak up everything I can."

In order to pass NCEA Level 3, Harrison worked hard to finish everything he could before his departure.

That didn't stop him from playing the lead in The Globe's The Adventures of Toad and performing in Awatapu College's ukulele group The All Sorts.

"I enjoy entertaining people, I suppose you would say, I quite like the rush of adrenaline you get when you're up there. I'm a bit of a theatre junkie, you could say. I suppose that's it, I've always liked performing from a young age."

The year 13 student has left behind a younger sister and brother and his parents for a host family who speak "broken English".

"I live with my mum and dad and they've always been quite supportive, so when I said I wanted to go to Japan they said ‘OK, let's do it'."

Awatapu College's head of performing arts, Stephen Fisher, says Harrison has been a role model for the junior students.

"He has made a huge mark in the school.

"Especially in his senior year. Seniors are encouraged to shine in their last year, and he took every opportunity to do that.

"Because of him, his involvement in drama and music and Japanese, and the music in particular, has put his performance over in a way that has engaged younger students."

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Head of languages and Japanese, Elin King, shares Mr Fisher's sentiments. "He's quite a flamboyant personality, he has made a big mark, he really has."

Mrs King says she doesn't doubt that he will do well in Japan.

On top of Harrison's entertainment value, the speeches, the drama and the music, he has a strong academic record.

With two schooling systems that are polar opposites, Mr Fisher says Harrison will find it difficult but it will also be a huge learning curve for him.

"He'll still embrace everything it can offer. That's why I'm really pleased he is going."

- Manawatu Standard

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