Exchange Students and Young Professionals Discuss Options for Future to High School Women in Fukushima
On November 1-2, 2014, the second phase of the TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima was launched. One hundred and twenty Fukushima girls gathered to hear from 20 exchange students from 11 countries, including the United States, as the exchange students shared their experiences and explained why they decided to study abroad, and the steps they took to come to Japan. Many of the students presented stories of having to persuade their parents in order to study in Japan. In addition, young female professionals attended the sessions to speak about various career fields. This four-step program provided mentoring and career advice for 120 female high school students from Fukushima prefecture, providing them with exposure and options they may never have had otherwise.
After the presentations, the Japanese participants presented their thoughts on what it takes to succeed outside of their community. Their thoughts included: take action and do not over think it, failure is a chance to improve oneself, accept your weaknesses, be courageous and take on challenges, and dream big.
Prior to Step 3 of this career program, students are required to think about exciting challenges that they may want to pursue. In order to prepare for this next session, participants listened to stories told by the mentors about their difficulties that they had overcome when they were in high school.
Participants with specific goals presented them and declared the challenges they may face. Some of these goals consisted of running for election of the student council, going to Tokyo by oneself, achieving the highest score on the school exam and taking pictures with 30 foreigners.
One student said, “I learned the difficulty of try new things. However, international students and mentors who kept challenging themselves have inspired me. They are my role model. My challenge would be small, but I would like to achieve it after the discussion with the international students.” Another student said, “I learned that many international students faced various challenges and had to make an effort to achieve their goal. Sometimes I feel like I do not know what to do, but I am inspired to take on challenges and overcome them.”
These sessions were meaningful not only for the high school students, but also for the mentors who supported the participants, in addition to the international exchange students.
On December 20 – 21, 2014, the third part of this program, “Sessions with Professional Women”, will be held. It will be supported by 8 companies, which include TOMODACHI strategic partner companies. Several professionals will talk about their career paths and the decisions they made in terms of advancement to college, accepting a job offer, marriage and having children. In this session, participants will be encouraged to think about “working” and “making their own life” with the professionals.