From July 24 to August 4, senior Amanda He participated in an exclusive Japanese-American Cultural Exchange Program at Princeton college. 

The program is called High School Diplomats (HSD) and this year they selected 40 American and 40 Japanese students for an all-expenses-paid trip to Princeton.

“Each American student is paired with a Japanese student (roommate), where every diplomat immerses themselves in an unfamiliar culture while learning more about their own country,” said Amanda. 

The application process for this program is extremely selective. 

Amanda applied during the fall and interviewed with HSD in the winter before she was selected.

“I applied to the program because I was interested in learning about foreign cultures, and I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try something new,” said Amanda.

Amanda’s time at Princeton was more than strictly learning. She enjoyed meeting new people, playing games, and even painting calligraphy. 

Because there are only 10 days in the program, each day is packed to the brim. 

“Every morning, we wake up around 7:30 and complete Rajio Taiso, a traditional Japanese warm-up to stretch our muscles and prepare for the day,” said Amanda.

After that, Amanda attended breakfast and then a language and culture class where she learned Japanese phrases taught by esteemed professors. 

In the afternoon Amanda would celebrate cultural events with her peers.
“We celebrated Independence Day, Bunka-No-Hi (Japanese Day of Culture), and Halloween. We also participate in exciting games and deep discussions to reflect upon our short time at Princeton,” said Amanda. 

Amanda also gave presentations on education, social issues, regional characteristics, and government. 

Amanda does not plan on majoring in international relations or political science, but she believes that the skills she learned in HSD will give her a head start over her peers in the future. 

“HSD has impacted me in countless ways. My broadened global perspective helps me better communicate with others, especially those from cultures/backgrounds different from me,” said Amanda. 

HSD has sparked Amanda’s interest in Japanese and she looks to continue broadening her knowledge of the language.

“It will be beneficial when I study or travel abroad, as HSD sparked my interest in learning new languages, specifically Japanese,” said He.

Part of what made the experience so meaningful for Amanda were the counselors, who were all former HSD attendees.

“The counselors’ passion for HSD shows in their excitement to make each year’s program better than before. Typically, counselors are undergraduate or graduate college students,” said Amanda.

Amanda was nervous about the program at first, but she became accompanied to it alongside her roommate, Asumi. 

“Asumi, taught me so much about Japanese culture and how to become a better global citizen,” said He. 

Asumi’s impact on Amanda was essential to her growth as a person and gave her time to reflect on her life back in Richmond. Through an application called LINE, a Japanese version of messages, Amanda is able to keep in touch with the friends she made at HSD. 

“I began to reflect on the relationships I have made in order to strengthen my relationships with my friends and family back at home,” said Amanda.

Amanda believes that the people not the prestige of Princeton made this a very enjoyable experience. 

Amanda also believes the diversity of the program opened up her eyes to the vast perspectives across the globe. She would highly recommend anyone interested to apply.

“People call it the ‘best 10 days of your life,’ and I would have to agree,” said Amanda. 

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