High School Diplomats: bringing together Japanese and American students


Taken during the Japanese Cultural Festival Day

This past summer, I had the special opportunity to participate in the High School Diplomats Program. High School Diplomats (HSD) is a scholarship program that brings together high school students from the United States and Japan each summer through two parallel experiences. HSD U.S. provides the opportunity for American and Japanese students to meet at Princeton University for ten days of cultural exchange. Students from Japan and America spend ten days living and socializing with each other on Princeton’s campus.

The program exposes students to both cultures through daily themes and academic and social activities. The themes provide roommate pairs with opportunities to communicate, learn and simply enjoy each other’s company. The themes vary widely so that each student pair can find common ground and build their friendship. Some examples of these activities include discussions and presentations, a Japanese summer festival, a sports tournament and a karaoke night. Students are divided into two smaller groups at Princeton, with dedicated staff to build a more intimate atmosphere.

The High School Diplomats program is devoted to bringing students from both American and Japanese cultures the most informative and engaging cultural exchange possible. In addition to the daily activities, both groups of students attend daily language classes ranging from beginner to advanced and taught by native speakers. Every student is also given the opportunity to present a unique part of their culture. Topics assigned each year vary, but often include history, leisure, social issues and education. The HSD U.S. academic curriculum provides students with small, seminar-style learning opportunities that animate the cultural exchange at Princeton.

I first heard about the High School Diplomats Program through my brother Nicholas, who had been accepted to participate in both U.S. HSD and HSD Japan in previous years. Although extremely eager to apply to the program, I recall at times being nervous or uncertain about not only whether I was a good enough applicant, but also if the accomplished students I met there might look down on me and my personal experiences. However, what I experienced at U.S. HSD happened to be nothing like I was expecting or imagined. The people I met were the most genuine, most amazing individuals. Everyone came from such interesting backgrounds, yet they were all so humble and eager to engage and learn from one another. This was a place where I truly felt accepted.

My program friends helped me become comfortable in my own skin and taught me to not only be happy with, but to thrive off of who I was and what I valued in life. The bonds I created at HSD are something that I will forever hold close to my heart. I am extremely grateful to have been a part of this program. I highly encourage individuals who are not only interested in the Japanese culture, but who are passionate about diplomacy and the experience you get from exploring your own true values.

If interested in applying to the High School Diplomats Program, visit the website www.highschooldiplomats.com for more information and instructions on applications. If you have any further questions, please contact the program director, Celine Zapolski. Her email is [email protected]