Life-Changing Cultural Exchange

Oliver Shen

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Participants enjoy preparing and consuming a traditional Japanese meal.

Photo courtesy of Oliver Shen
Participants enjoy preparing and consuming a traditional Japanese meal.

When you hear the phrase “cultural exchange,” what exactly comes to mind?

For me, the phrase brings back many memories and conjures up a scene from this summer. Scattered through a messy room are various souvenirs, any semblance of organization buried under a shelf filled with various costumes and snacks. An American flag is proudly spread across a closet door for “decorative” reasons, and a Japanese Yukata (kimono) is sprawled on a bed. For all intents and purposes it’s a lazy, casual night, and although my demeanor remains decidedly normal, my location and company are certainly not.

Across the suite, Yosuke, my Osakan roommate, is fiddling with a yellow towel, swearing that if he pulls a corner in a certain way it’ll look like a chicken. Though you’d never expect it, Yosuke is goofy to a fault, his obsession with YouTube contributing to his impeccable English-speaking abilities. Perpetually enthusiastic, he pauses in his efforts to ask me a question about Chinese grammar, his mastery of two languages apparently not enough.

Searching through random piles of junk at our feet is my suitemate, Hiro, trying to find his electronic dictionary. He’s looking for a word to describe Japan’s geopolitical status, and his intelligence and air of mystery make him a big favorite among the American girls during date night. Regardless, he’s contrasted by his own roommate, Andrew, who bursts through our dorm door wearing only a towel, shouting frantically about a bat that apparently found its way into our building.

Lasting friendships were formed during the program.

Photo courtesy of Oliver Shen
Lasting friendships were formed during the program.

These scenes were common during my time participating in AIU’s High School Diplomats (HSD) program; they redefined how I felt about the concept of diplomacy by the time I sorrowfully returned home. HSD consists of a two-week stay at Princeton University with forty Americans and forty Japanese. Each student is paired up with a roommate of the other nationality, and cultural exchange is promoted through a series of recreational and educational activities. Ranging from Halloween celebrations to field days to dance parties, HSD has something for everyone, and, in my opinion, there’s no better way to learn about a country so different and far away. A program intended to make one’s role as ambassador casual and easy, HSD was a life-changing experience and is practically hand-crafted for our school of international studies.

If you are a sophomore or junior and the concepts of cultural exchange and fun appeal to you in any way, apply for High School Diplomats now.

Due date: January 8th

Questions or Additional Info:
Mrs. Celine Zpolski, American Director
[email protected]
(571) 234-5072


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