Eric – Japan Exchange Student – Summer Program Alumnus

After a journey across the Pacific, Eric quickly discovered the differences between Japanese and American cultures.  He quickly realized that the key to success there was to be “open to everything and constantly flexible.” Here is what Eric wrote about his experience:

Before my YFU exchange trip, Japan was but a place on the wrong side of the map. It existed only on plastic globes and textbook atlases; it was always there, but never real. When I arrived in Japan, I entered the land I had always known of but never known. Reality did not overcome me—I overcame it. I had come because I’d heard the fairytale too often; I was ready to live it.

“Culture shock” didn’t do the feeling justice. It was like the world had gotten cosmetic surgery while I was sleeping up in the clouds somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly it was rude not to slurp and putting soy sauce on your rice was like setting the house afire. I was warned of the stark difference between the Japanese and American cultures before departing. I was informed my limits would be bent. So I set upon a goal: not to be snapped. The first thing I realized I must do if I wished to have a successful trip was to be open to everything and constantly flexible. In a week I was rubber.

There were hurdles nonetheless. The most challenging aspect of Japanese life to accustom to was the hidden language, the ritual of saying one thing and meaning another. Speech was a mere formality; physical actions and expressions were the truest form of communication. I could not only listen, but had to watch.

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About Youth For Understanding USA

Youth For Understanding (YFU) advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities. The global YFU network, consisting of partners in more than 60 different countries, is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to gain the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected and competitive global society. YFU has remained a trusted leader of intercultural exchange programs for more than 60 years because of its commitment to safety, reputation for quality, and exceptional support services. Backed by a global team of volunteers, YFU provides cultural education and guidance to all participants. Selected to administer more government and corporate scholarships than any other high school exchange program, YFU is the only organization awarded full-listing for J-1 inbound, outbound and short term exchange by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Through creating global learning opportunities, YFU has promoted international understanding and world peace to more than 250,000 students and their host families. Thousands of parents across the globe trust YFU with their teenagers every year, and thousands of students every year choose YFU to help them discover their inner selves.
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