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October 29, 2013 > Washington High student becomes a diplomat

Washington High student becomes a diplomat

Submitted By Emily Hoeven

This summer, I had an unbelievable experience attending the High School Diplomats (HSD) program. The program selects 40 students from the United States and 40 students from Japan to participate in an intensive intercultural exchange at Princeton University. Each American student is paired with a Japanese roommate, and over the course of ten days, we formed bonds that will last a lifetime.

HSD was, simply, life-changing. I realized that the second the Japanese students got off the bus, crying, smiling, and irrepressibly excited. I saw my roommate, Marina. We became instant friends, and although it wasnÕt always easy to communicate due to the language barrier, we found a way to overcome that obstacle.

Each day, a different theme was chosen to best teach the two countries about each otherÕs cultures. The American students were able to attend and participate in a traditional Japanese festival and tea ceremony. We were also exposed to the arts of calligraphy, origami, dance, and sushi-making! The Japanese students experienced their first dance, Halloween, a county fair, and a pep rally. We prepared presentations for each other on our countryÕs respective governments, social issues, education systems, and regional characteristics. I loved the discussion groups, in which we were able to sit and talk about relevant world issues and possible solutions to them. The Japanese students never ceased to amaze me with their ability to articulate their opinions on such deep subjects. They were so knowledgeable and passionate; it was truly inspiring to see.

Although there were many serious moments at HSD, there were just as many fun ones. We had multiple dance parties, crazy dress up days, and awesome activities like karaoke and mock Olympics. I canÕt count the times I laughed so hard I cried, and I canÕt tell you how hard it was to leave at the end of the ten days. I had learned so much and made so many memories and best friends, both in America and across the ocean. All 80 of us still communicate regularly, despite the multitude of time differences.

I strongly encourage all high school sophomores and juniors to apply to this incredible program. ItÕs a full scholarship program, so cost isnÕt an issue. The application is available online and must be postmarked by Jan. 8, 2014. Applicants will be notified about interviews in March, and will hear about their final status in April. The 2014 HSD program will take place Jul. 30-Aug. 9.

Sponsored by AIU Insurance in Japan and the Freeman Foundation, affiliated with National Association of Japan-America Societies, the High School Diplomats Program is a cultural enrichment experience that brings together high school students from Japan and the United States. To apply, visit

For more information, contact Celine Zapolski at

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