TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program: Debriefing Session
On February 5th, a debriefing session took place in Fukushima City for the students who participated in the TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program 2017. The program sent 20 Japanese high school students from Fukushima to Los Angeles, California from December 26, 2016 to January 9, 2017. The participants saw each other for the first time since the program ended, and enjoyed catching up on each other’s lives before the session began.
The debriefing session started off with presentations by the students, where they looked back on the goals they had set before departing for the U.S. and how they achieved these goals. These achievements included being chosen as a lead contestant for a speech contest, becoming more proactive, and continuing to study English.
In the second half, the students split into groups and brainstormed ideas to create a new high school cultural exchange program based on their experience. The students then presented their various ideas, which included introducing the traditions and culture of Fukushima, and deepening the mutual understanding and friendship between Americans and Japanese of the same age group through school exchanges and homestays.
Reflecting on her experience in the program, Michihira Hashimoto commented, “Participating in the TOMODACHI Honda Cultural Exchange Program not only meant participating in the Rose Parade, but also many other things, including the homestay, exchanges with the local high school students, and volunteer activities. Because of these activities, we were able to experience the true American culture and way of living. Every day was full of discoveries; one was that Americans shake hands looking each other in the eye, while the Japanese usually don’t even shake hands. Before the program, I could only see things from a Japanese point of view, but I feel like I was able to broaden my views by participating in the program. I would like to say thank you to the people who were involved in making this program possible. I couldn’t be more thankful.”