The Griffin Chronicle

High School Diplomats: Calling all Sophomores and Juniors!

Sarena Kuhn, Guest Writer

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For the past 31 years, 40 Japanese students and 40 American students have joined for an incredible ten days of cultural exchange and friendship. AIU Insurance Co. of Tokyo and the Freeman Foundation sponsor the High School Diplomats Program, which is held at Princeton University, offering a generous scholarship to all students accepted. This includes room, board, and special activity costs. All Sophomores and Juniors nationwide may apply, and this past year, I was lucky enough to join the HSD family.

Even though counselors mentioned in every single email leading up to the program that this would be the “best ten days of your life,” I didn’t really know what to expect; I just hoped this would be an opportunity to make lasting friendships. Central to the program is the roommate relationship— every American is paired with a Japanese student. My roommate was a girl named Kotono, who lives in Nagoya.

After the orientation for American students and a day full of anticipation, my heart thumped as I held up my “Welcome, Kotono!” sign. Unlike some of the other students, I wasn’t able to participate in the homestay experience, and my roommate and I had not communicated extensively before the program. I didn’t even know what the person I who I was welcoming would look like. Before I knew it, all my fears disappeared as I was met by a hug. In that moment, I had no idea that that hug was the beginning of one of the most impactful relationships in my life.

Each day began with rajio taiso, radio calisthenics that got us energized for the jam-packed schedule ahead of us. The mornings would consist of language and culture classes; American students learned Japanese while the Japanese students practiced English. I, along with two other American students, had the opportunity to participate in Seminar, a class where we spoke with Japanese students about issues such as diversity, poverty, and education in both the Japanese and English languages. After classes, the program featured exciting activities and discussions each day. Date night— the HSD recreation of American prom, Bunka no Hi— a day we spent learning about Japanese culture, and a“Halloween” which featured costumes and a haunted house, were some of my personal favorites. Exciting as these activities were, they could not compare to the friendships we made over the course of these ten days. Each of my 79 peers was so incredibly unique, talented, and passionate. I feel so blessed to be a part of this community of leaders, artists, athletes, and diplomats. Most enriching is the friendship I developed with Kotono.

Although I had studied Japanese in school for three years, I was apprehensive about the language barrier. Kotono and I could not always communicate easily, but this so-called barrier actually strengthened our relationship as we worked together to learn each other’s languages. I am so grateful to whoever was responsible for pairing us together, because it really felt like a perfect match— we were both messy, and our dorm room looked like a tornado hit it by the time the program was over. We bonded over spontaneous dancing, teaching each other new words, and running through Robertson fountain. Even though she grew up across the Pacific Ocean, we had a lot in common— we’re both a little worried about getting into a university, we like nature, and we both ate too much of Princeton dining halls’ ice cream. After four days we called each other sister.

High School Diplomats allowed me to make meaningful friendships, but it also opened my eyes to new perspectives and challenged me to develop as a person. Through the Paula Chow Diplomat talks, every student had the opportunity to share their voice and hope for the future of the world.

If you are interested in this life-changing opportunity, applications are now available for High School Diplomats 2018, which will take place July 25 – August 5 of next year. You can visit the website and find the application portal under the tab “HSD in America.” Applications will be accepted from September 15 through January 8. Interviews will be scheduled toward the end of February, and accepted students will be notified in early April. For those of you planning to apply, I wish you good luck!

 

Program contact information: Mrs. Celine Zapolski, American Director

Phone: (571) 234–5072

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.highschooldiplomats.com

 

If you have questions about my personal HSD experience or want some application tips, feel free to send me an email [email protected]

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