By Emely Flores (Japanese at CHEC)
My name is Emely Flores. I’m in the 11th grade. I had an opportunity to get a free trip to learn about and go to Japan. What can I say about my journey? There was so much that I took in and wish it was longer, but even though it was in a short time, I can’t complain. I loved every second of it, especially having the chance to be hosted by a family over there. Now that was an experience! I was chosen because during the summer I heard about a TOMODACHI exchange program for Japanese students. They were visiting D.C. so I decide to go with them during a tourist experience, and met the students, and I was able to learn more about Japan and I was much more intrigued.
When I heard about the opportunity of going to Japan for a week, I jumped right on board. it was a lot of meetings and conversations to get me mentally prepared and ready to go across the ocean, and ready for a new culture lifestyle. I won’t lie, I was nervous. It was a lot to take in just knowing I was gonna be in a different country and meet a lot of people, who I thought I was gonna have a lot of trouble communicating with, but it was a once in a lifetime experience that I was gonna take. I mean not many can say at my age they went to Japan.
Although all this was a rush for me, everything changed the minute I got there. It wasn’t the fact that I had my best friend with me and my close friends, but the environment of Japan. The people making me feel accepted and safe was the best feeling ever. Not only that, when I went to stores or restaurants and my teacher wasn’t there to help me talk to the employee for help or in general anywhere, people were always open to do hand gestures or try to say things in English or anything possible for us to find communication. The things I did in Japan were stay in Tokyo and visiting famous tourist places and going to Gifu which was two hours away from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, which in America we call the bullet train. it’s a fast train that we were able to get on in Tokyo.
Going to Gifu was an experience I’ll never forget. I was able to go to a school there and meet kids around my age and see what they did, their activities, learn about their dreams and what they want to do, and how they’re gonna achieve them. I was able to see the cultural difference – how kids enjoyed their school – from their warm smiles when they saw us, their welcome gestures of showing us their music, sports, dancing and games, and so much more. I just couldn’t help it but smile and felt so happy.
Additionally, meeting my host family was the true experience. Even though it was only for a couple of days, I truly can say it will never be forgotten. The tea ceremony and the kimono wearing and going to the temple and even cooking with my family was so much more than I could’ve asked for.
Japan overall was a trip that I wished lasted longer. The people were just so amazing. Just knowing now that there’s a bridge there for me to always cross is much more than I could’ve asked for.