The Year One Students


Rebekah Armstrong
Hi, my name is Rebekah and I am a part of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program. I am a 15 year old sophomore currently residing in DC. I live with my Mom, Dad, and brother when he is home from college. However, I have lived in 5 different states in the US since I am a military brat. I love playing sports and play competitive club volleyball. I also have a love for traveling and other cultures. I have taken French for 4 years and have traveled abroad to France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and soon Japan will be added to my list. I am big on volunteering and I volunteer at the American Red Cross, DC Central Kitchen, and my church as an assistant teacher. I also enjoy reading, even though I don’t read as often as I like. I absolutely love going to museums, especially the Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. Being a teenager though, I love just hanging out in DC with my friends and shopping. I am very excited to go to Japan and help out as well as gain new friends and experiences being there all together. As I get older, I would like to continue traveling and doing exchange programs.

Atiya Artis
Hi! My name is Atiya Artis and I’m 16 years old. I attend Calvin Coolidge SHS and am going to the 12th grade. I enjoy sports, especially basketball. I love to cheer, sing, dance, and make others laugh. I try to smile frequently, even when I’m feeling uneasy because “it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.” I spend most of my free time helping others through tutoring, mentoring, directing a children’s choir, donating to and serving the less fortunate, and being of personal assistance to the elderly. My favorite colors are turquoise and apricots and I always love to eat shrimp and broccoli with white rice. I think very highly of myself because I believe that confidence starts within.

Joel Bernola
My name is Joel Bernola and I am 17 years old. During my early life I lived in Maryland and soon moved to Washington, DC at the age of 8. It was somewhat difficult for me to adapt to living in DC, but I soon got the hang of it. I soon received an education at IDEAL Academy for my fourth and fifth grade years. Then I attended PAUL Public Charter School, where I realized my talents in visual arts and teaching. During this time, I was also practicing Tae Kwon Do, a martial art which originated in South Korea. I am now attending Duke Ellington School for the Arts, where I am majoring in Museum Studies with a minor in Literary Media and Communications and still practicing the martial arts.

Tenaj Gueory
Hello. I am Tenaj Gueory and I am 16 years old. I attend McKinley Technology High School. I am in the 10th Grade. I really love tennis and ice skating. These are my favorite sports to play. I have been playing them for 8 years now. By playing these sports they have brought many opportunities. With ice skating, I have been able to go to hockey games and sit in box seats. With tennis, I have been to city opens, Kastles Games, Washington State, Portland, New York, Philly, and Chicago. I have performed at the Kennedy Center as well. I play tennis at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center and ice skate at Fort Dupont Ice Skating Arena. I enjoy playing tennis, ice skating, and helping children.

Delmar Tarrago
Konichiwa! I’m Delmar Tarrago from DC. I’m Mexican American and am 17 years old. I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and lived there until I was three. Since then I’ve lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Guatemala, and of course, DC. I can read, write and speak fluently in Spanish, and am about to be in my 5th year of taking Chinese. Chinese is hard, and very different from Spanish, so I still think that I have a ways to go. I really enjoy traveling, learning other languages, and exploring other cultures, and am very excited for our trip to Japan!

Jatalia Wilson
Hi, my name is Talia. I’m a high-schooler that’s interested in Asian culture, mostly Japanese and Korean. I’ve been interested in Japanese culture since late 2010 and first got into it through Jpop and Jrock. Japanese fashion like Decora and Lolita have also drawn me towards Japanese culture. I got into Korean culture through Kpop and have been a hardcore fan ever since. My dream goal is to become a teacher of the English language and to travel and live in different parts of Asia.


Konnichiwa [Hello]!! I’m AT and since this is the very first blog post, I’ll do a little bit of self-introduction. I’m 16 years old and am in the 2nd year of Japanese high school. I play volleyball 5 days a week but haven’t been playing for half a year since I got a torn ACL in my left knee. I’d been doing volleyball for 5 years and it felt like an END when I got injured. And that’s why I’m on this program now. I applied for this program because I thought it would be a great opportunity to change my volleyball-centered life to a richer life filled with more exciting things other than just volleyball. I’ve always been interested in English and American cultures since the time I lived in California with my family almost 5 years ago. I hope my experiences here will enhance my areas of interest and will become a guide for choosing my path in the future.

Hello, I am CT, who came from Japan as an exchange student. I am 16 years old. Three things that I love to do the most are playing the piano, playing basketball, and learning languages.  I am a very optimistic person. I like discussing cultural differences and knowing each other’s culture. I really do love learning languages, and I have learned English, German, French, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Farsi, Italian and Armenian, as of now. I believe that learning a foreign language surely helps us to open a door to knowing a foreign culture.

I’m HI, and I’m a Japanese student participating in this program. I’ll explain a little bit about myself. I was born in New Jersey in 1996, which means I am 17 years old right now. Other than Japan, I have lived in Singapore and Thailand for a total of seven and a half years, and that is where I learnt my English while attending international schools. As a club activity, I do Japanese Archery, which is quite different from regular archery. We use a bow which is about 2 meters long. I enjoy taking walks, listening to music and watching baseball. I listen to all types of music, and some of my favorite Japanese artists are Perfume and Baseball Bear. I really like penguins and my favorite color is red, so one of my hobbies is to collect things which are red. I find lessons on history, politics, economy and science in general to be very interesting. Since this is basically my first time in memory to be in the U.S., I would like to see a lot of things and expand my perspective of the world. I am also looking forward to making new friends here and having a great time with them!

Hello! I’m HO. I’m really glad to participate in this program. This is my first time to live in the United States. I’ve only grown up in Japan, so I’m really excited about staying in the United States. I’m interested in social issues, for example history, politics, diversity and so on. I’m happy if I could know the US-Japan detailed relationship through this program. Also I’m looking forward to looking at ethnic diversity in the US. Because Japan is nearly homogeneous in racial terms, I don’t know the “diversity” well. As the proverb “seeing is believing” goes, I’d like to see the diversity in the US and know the world’s diversity. Thank you.

Hi. My name is IY, and I’m a Japanese high school student participating in this JPN-US Youth Exchange Program from July 19. I was brought up in Japan for 17 years and I acquired my English there. Since this is my first visit to the US and also having a life abroad, everyday is full of discovery and 24 hours is not enough for a day for me now. Calligraphy, which is one of the Japanese cultures, is something I can be proud of myself, for I have been practicing it for 10 years and I have a license to teach now. I really like to challenge, try new things, and discover. I’m a chatterable girl, active girl, and sometimes a silly girl.

I’m SK and I am one of the Japanese participants in this program. I’ve always wanted to participate in an exchange program, but I never really had the chance to go until now. This will be my last summer of high school, so I am thrilled to be here. I love to speak and write in both languages, and every time I do so, I discover many things about linguistics. I also love Japanese culture so I am here to express how great it is.  I think my experiences here will show me not only the cultural differences of the US, but a new side to Japanese culture that I have never realized before. I am trying new things now, like Spanish and music-making. I hope this will be an exciting experience.