I arrived to Princeton on the July 25, 2016 to participate in a foreign exchange student program that would prove to be the best 10 days of my life.
As I emerged from the car I wondered about the series of events that lead me to the experience I was about to embark upon. Just a few months back my curiosity led me to click on an email describing the High School Diplomats (HSD) program. I decided to go to an interest meeting at my high school. High School Diplomats is a summer student exchange program for American and Japanese students. I spoke no Japanese, plus the program was fully funded so I figured I would never get accepted. But I am writing this piece today because I did gain admittance and to tell you that you have a shot too, and maybe even a great one. I want to encourage you to ignore your fears and submit an application for a program that will change your life.
The application for HSD includes a few brief essays along with a teacher recommendation; transcripts aren't required, although the program attracts very intellectually curious students. There is no application fee and the program is free too, funded by generous scholarships. Eligible participants are US based high school sophomores and juniors. I used my essays to tell HSD a lot about my personality and my passions. In writing these essays last year I worried that my lack of Japanese language and inexperience with Japanese culture would make me a poor fit, but I was dead wrong. This program seeks out interesting students who can contribute to the program in a wide variety of ways, and who really can help teach Japanese students about the culture here in America. Applicant evaluations are heavily focused on the quality of essays and a personal Interview. I still remember the feeling of my heart beating when I opened my acceptance letter a few months after applying grasping the gravity of the future I would soon explore, but not fully comprehending the magnitude of what I would experience in those ten days.
My time at HSD was unforgettable. I spent jam-packed days under the hot August Princeton sun talking with my fascinating, intelligent, and wonderful Japanese roommate, Mizuki. Every night held some event, stemming from either Japanese or American culture, Halloween, Prom, Talent shows, Karaoke, Japanese cultural day, Fourth of July, Olympics -- we did it all and more. This cultural immersion program involved deep exploration of many facets of life -- social issues, culture, politics, and education. It was an incredible learning experience. It was a true cultural awakening.
If you want to experience this outstanding cultural adventure, apply to the High School Diplomats program. You can find the application on the program website. The application is free and so is the program, fully funded by scholarships. Key dates are: January 8, 2017 for the application deadline; program dates are Tuesday, July 25 - Saturday, August 5, 2017. If you are accepted you will have a truly unmatched and unforgettable experience. Part Two awaits many of those accepted into this scholarship program when you will have the opportunity to continue your cultural immersion in Japan for summer 2018!