H.O.’s Summer Reflection

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.

H.O.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan

DC Day 10: July 31, 2013

We went to Catholic University, Mundo Verde Charter School, and Words Beats & Life today, July 31th.

We first went to the Catholic University School of Architecture. We learned about the “Eco Modern” house, which concerns energy efficiency, and “Librii” there.

Then we visited Mundo Verde Charter School. We became teachers there. We taught children Japanese songs, playings, and Origami there.

After that we went to Words Beats & Life. We enjoyed DJ, graffiti and watching break dance. We found that graffiti is harder than it looks. In Japan, graffiti doesn’t recognize as “art” but we learned that it needs practice and is a kind of “art.”

The most impressing thing for me today was children’s power of learning new things. Our group taught children Japanese songs and Japanese letters. Children got interested and we enjoyed teaching. I was surprised that children are really good at writing (imitating) Japanese! I wrote their names in Japanese and they imitated well. I thought children are suitable for learning new things. Of course adults or high school students can learn new things, little children’s assimilation is amazing. Also this experience reminds me how fun learning is. Because I always go to school and take classes, it’s not fresh for me to learn things. It’s a pity that I can’t feel fun from learning. I was happy to realize this today. I learned from children very much today and I hadn’t expected that. I’d like to continue to volunteer when I come back to Japan, too.

H.O.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan

DC Day 8: July 29, 2013

Hi! This is HO.

One week has passed since we began our program. Now I know other members well and feel comfortable with them.

Today we first discussed teen pregnancy, what we learned so far, and which words describe us well (for example, flexibility, open minded etc.) at School Without Walls. We did “Head and Heart” activity again. Also we wrote down what to discuss / want to know / want to see.

Then we walked to the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. We saw Lincoln’s famous speech, The Gettysburg Address, on the wall. This was my first time to see famous speech “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” in English. I have only known Japanese wording “人民の、人民による、人民のための政治” , so it was really impressive for me. After that we visited DC Central Kitchen and finally walked to the Union Station and we got home.

I’m interested in “to use food as a tool”. This phrase was said in DC Central Kitchen. This means that giving meals isn’t radical solution to help poor people and what we need to do to help them is to make people living by themselves. They said they aren’t doing soup shop. I was surprised to hear that because I’ve never thought like that. Everyone can think of giving food for free but few people can consider the poor’s living. From this experience, I learned that if we want to change something, we have to think of essence. We learned “iceberg” on the first day, and I think this organization looks under the “iceberg”.

H.O.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan