HSD at Ivy League: An Exchange of Cultures

Andrew Amadeo

This past summer, I took part in a multicultural exchange program sponsored by the American International Group called High School Diplomats, or HSD. In this program, 40 American students and 40 Japanese students develop relationships and connect with one another through daily themes, such as Independence Day, Day of Thanks, and many more. Alongside my roommate, I was able to discuss social issues and cultural topics, such as abortion, Taylor Swift, the right to education, the stress of higher education, and even the latest pop trends in the United States.

When I was saying goodbye to my parents, I looked around to see who the other students were that were participating with me, and I began to feel overwhelmed by the number of people I didn’t know. That all went away when one student with long black hair sitting to my right exclaimed energetically, “So you’re here for HSD too?!”

I replied with a shy “Yeah”, but went and sat with him anyway. After a few minutes of talking with him and a few other students near me, my nervousness went away and I began conversing with the person who would be my closest friend during HSD.

Through HSD, I met 79 students that were energetic, caring, and passionate. There were HSD members that enjoy playing instruments, some that like activity, and playing sports, and some that want to become film directors. Everywhere, from the dining halls, to the classrooms, students would be talking, having fun, and learning about each other and their lives.

After I came back from the program, I soon began to notice I was more outspoken about my thoughts and beliefs. Before HSD, I was introverted, not speaking much unless I was with friends, but through HSD, I’ve become more active in sharing my opinion, and more confident in myself. Now, I voice my beliefs and have more confidence all around with public speaking and leading other people. More than that, I have a new sense of the word, “friendship”. “Friendship” doesn’t need to have constant talking and asking each other questions, or having the exact same feelings and beliefs. Instead, “Friendship” is about trusting each other, having respect for each other, and knowing that one can depend on the other for support and guidance.

Throughout HSD, I engaged in diplomatic talks about current issues, such as climate change, gun rights, and even artificial Intelligence, hearing the different perspectives from the Japanese students that I had not ever considered. For example, I never considered that artificial Intelligence could be beneficial in caring for sick and elderly people! Through activities such as “Date Night” and “Casino Night”, we engaged in different aspects of American culture ranging from gender and romance, 1920’s America, and even Halloween! In addition to learning Japanese culture, the American Students got the opportunity to learn some Japanese words and phrases in the language classes, and since I already speak Japanese, I instead had a Japanese seminar class, learning about more in-depth characteristics of Japan, and the similarities between Japan and the U.S., such as how people view foreigners and the importance of globalization!

If you like learning about other cultures, languages, and engaging in diplomatic discussions, HSD is the right program for you! This program allows students to speak openly about their own culture, and share their own experiences with other students, both from the United States, and from Japan. Although this program is not a Model UN type program, HSD has activities similar to Model UN, such as discussions and debates. Not only do you get to learn more about a foreign culture and talk about pressing issues, but you also have the opportunity to have diplomatic discussions with students from Japan! Through HSD, you get a look on the United States, Japan, and the world through a new lense. This program made me reflect on my life, my values, and who I want to become as a person.

If this sounds like you, the application is available, and is due January 9, 2019. During that January and February, the applications will be under review, and in Late February 2019, candidates for HSD U.S. 2019 will be notified and selected for an interview. The interviews will be conducted around February and March, and in Early April, 2019, the applicants will receive a notification of their final status! If you have any further questions, feel free to contact the American Director, Celine Zapolski, by phone — (571) 234-5072 or email — [email protected], and visit the High School Diplomats Webpage: www.highschooldiplomats.com.


*Andrew Amadeo is a guest writer for The Oakdale Post.