Through this program I found that the US is really a country of diversity. I talked with various people from different parts of the world in DC and NY. I was surprised to see that so many different cultures coexist in the US. Until now I have grown up in Japan with people with similar backgrounds ——– I am going to a school which has an entrance examination, so friends are similar in academic ability. I live in a suburban residential area and the people there have a lot in common, for example, lifestyle and occupation. But this exchange program expanded my horizons through meeting and talking with various people.
I had many opportunities to take metro in Washington DC, and there I saw many people enjoy talking with strangers, laughing, and saying “Nice meeting you.” I was also talked to by strangers every so often, and asked, for example, where I came from, what I was doing in DC, where I was going, my future dream, and so on. I was really surprised at the way American people talked. In Japan, parents tell their children not to talk with strangers for fear of kidnap and other problems. Adults also don’t talk with strangers on the commuter train, because they are tired and usually sleeping, which I heard is surprising for Americans.
As America is a country of immigration and diversity, verbal communication must be an important factor for their social life. In other words, it must be difficult for them to communicate without words. To understand each other and live harmoniously with various kinds of people in this country, Americans value to speak out, I suppose. I also heard an interesting story about why there were so many museums in DC. Each race wants others to know their own culture and build their museum to exhibit their works. I think that this desire and the conversation on the metro have something in common at the bottom.
This program took me to the world which I never knew. I met people with different backgrounds, values, customs, and I learned the real meaning of diversity. I found that it is difficult to understand other cultures, but learning from different people is really meaningful and rewarding.
Through this program I also found my future challenge. In DC we learned “sustainability” and “social entrepreneurship”. We visited Busboys & Poets, Words Beats & Life, Congress, and so on, which all dealt with social problems and wanted to make society better. We had direct talks with them and learned why they were founded and what the problems were. Through lectures I was made aware that I knew only little about society. I felt ashamed of my ignorance about social problems and my narrow view of the world. Also at School Without Walls, we had a workshop about social entrepreneurship, and at the beginning of it, we brainstormed social problems. At that time I couldn’t come up with problems and I felt it was very difficult. Now I noticed that my lack of social view made it difficult. I am lacking in social and world view and critical thinking for those, for example, “What is happening in our society and in the world?” or “What can we do for them?” At present I am a student and learning for myself, but in near future I will work for society. Working means connecting myself with society and trying to make it a better place. Therefore it is time to think of things socially. I am happy to be able to notice the importance of social perspective.
The best fruit of this program, however, is that I could make many wonderful friends and acquaintances. Thanks to them, I could understand different ways of thinking. Through discussions and casual talking with them, I was made to know that the world is really vast and diversified. I am sure that this experience is a treasure of my life.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School