I first heard about Youth For Understanding (YFU) from one of my friends who said that going abroad was amazing. I always wanted to visit Japan so I decided I would give it a shot. It was out of my comfort zone and I knew I could only go if I got a scholarship. I was lucky enough to receive the Mazda scholarship, which was the pathway to having the time of my life in Japan. While there, I was selected to represent the Mazda scholarship winners and gave a closing ceremony speech. It was really an honor to do that.
I enjoyed everything in Japan, including the food, people, school experience and culture. I lived with the Tono family – Motoyasu, Tomoko, Kentaro, Rieko and Myu (the cat) in Hiroshima where I attended Nagisa High School. I was welcomed into this new family and Japanese life with generosity, open hearts and minds. I had the opportunity to truly experience Japanese life. For this amazing experience, I thank my host family, YFU and everyone who provided me with this once-in-a-lifetime experience in Mazda, America and Japan.
This trip taught me a countless amount of things. First, I learned more about the Japanese language and culture. I worked with my host family to learn Japanese kanji and new vocabulary and to teach them new English vocabulary. I learned a new kanji almost every night for my six-week stay. Second, I learned about the Japanese culture and society. For example, I learned, the hard way, that Japanese society frowns upon people walking and eating or walking and drinking. Also, I learned it is “correct” to slurp your noodles (ramen and udon) and the Japanese society values the group over the individual. Third, I learned about me. I learned there is much more to life than just America. I love being outside my comfort zone and figuring things out for myself. Once, while in inner city Hiroshima, I got lost and had to use my Japanese to figure out where I was and then how to get home.
This experience also changed my perspective on just about everything. Now, being back in America, I look at many things from two perspectives: as both an American and a Japanese student. I realize things that I used to think could only be done one way can be done many different ways. This cultural experience allowed me to experience new ways to do things and to see life from a different perspective. I want to sincerely thank Mazda America for selecting me and Mazda Japan for hosting me in Hiroshima. My friend was right; going abroad is a great and unforgettable experience.