By Theo Greiff
On Thursday, November 8th, my parents came up to me and told me to check the Facebook group as Sally had just posted talking about a summer program involving Japan that they thought I might be interested in. I can’t say I thought much of it. After all, I had multiple other programs that I had had my eyes on for a long time, and though it was sure to be interesting, I didn’t think I could fit it into my schedule. On Wednesday, November 14th, representatives actually visited, and I realized I probably should have looked into this program more.
High School Diplomats U.S is a 10-day program at Princeton University which brings American and Japanese Sophomores and Juniors together for cultural exchange and language studies. It can also be followed by a second program, High School Diplomats Japan, in which students who have taken HSD U.S can apply for a full scholarship to go to Japan the following summer. We were visited by Celine Zapolski, the director of HSD, and two alumnae, Olivia and Ava, who shared their experiences, and it was, in fact, the experiences that truly caught my eye. Though hearing Celine discuss all the information above was interesting, it was when I heard about the relationships formed between American and Japanese students that I began seriously considering the program.
Olivia and Ava described the many friendships they had formed, the challenges and barriers they faced, and the personal impact that resulted from the program. Though they mentioned many things, I thought the most profound to be when they talked about their Japanese roommates who they had managed to relate to and connect with despite the massive linguistic and cultural wall that separated them. I personally believe that language is something meant for use, it exists to expand understanding and range of thought, not just through study, but through interactions with others. From what I heard during this visit, High School Diplomats is a program that can help me achieve such interactions and, as a result, it has become a program that I am very seriously considering doing during the summer.