As one of the 12 participants of 2014 U.S.-Japan TOMODACHI Youth Exchange Program, I took part in uncountable number of activities during our visit to the U.S. nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Through meeting people of different kinds and visiting places that we all know, we’ve learned many, many things.
In the first place, it was not the first time for me to visit the country. Since I’ve lived in Mississippi for 2 years when I was in junior high, I am classified as a “returnee” in Japan. However, since I had my whole family along with me while I was in Mississippi, the first challenge for me in this exchange program was home staying with my host family. So, before the program began, I was always concerned about how I can get along well and live with people from different cultures who I haven’t even met. The question could never be solved without actually putting myself into the situation. Now, after spending a lot of time with the best family I ever met in my whole life, I know that active communication is what I need. Without communicating, as we’ve already learned in many of our programs, we wouldn’t be able to understand each other and break hindrances such as stereotypes. It refers not only to host family but also to people in general, and through actually having communication with every one I meet I could feel it happening. The importance of communication is just one of the things I’ve realized or learned during the program, but I believe it is among the most important things because it is something that I couldn’t have learned if I stayed in my own home in Japan.
Needless to say, as one of the tools to communicate, I realized the importance of speaking English or other languages. However, in addition to that, I thought I have to know more about my own country. While we were in D.C., D.C. students showed us around the city explaining every building we see, which really surprised us. I’ve been living in Japan’s capital for more than 10 years, and I’m sure I don’t have as much information about the city than they do about their own. As one of the members of younger generation, we have the role to spread our own culture to the world. We could see D.C. students, most of whom are younger than us, doing the role, so I strongly felt I needed to learn more about my own country too.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School