TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima STEP 2: Students Learn from Exchange Students in Japan and Present their own Challenges
STEP 2 of the TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima 2018, supported by the TOMODACHI Combini Fund took place on October 27 and 28, 2018 in Fukushima Prefecture. As part of STEP 2, themed “challenge,” the participants met with 20 foreign exchange students studying in Japan from 11 countries, including the United States. The foreign exchange students, who worked hard to surmount difficulties such as strong family opposition or a lack of financial means while they were studying abroad, share the own life stories to the participants.
After listening to the foreign students’ stories, the participants contemplated and presented “their own new challenges” that they will be required to overcome by the time STEP 3 occurs. As examples, the university student mentors, who are also alumni of this program, divulged the challenges they faced during high school and described ways in which they overcame these difficulties.
The mentors recounted stories of challenges and lessons from their high school days, saying, “After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I moved and transferred schools twice, and people treated me specially there. I thought that people were kind to me because I was pitiful. But when I tried to share my experience of the Tohoku disaster in STEP 2 of the program, an American student said me, ‘You are not pitiful. You have a lot of people who support you.’ Her word made me realize that I could change myself depending on how I look at things.” After hearing the university student mentors’ experiences, the high school student participants contemplated their own challenges and provided feedback to one another as a team on concrete actions to overcome each challenge.
The participants’ goals varied from “talking to people whom I have never talked to at least twice a day” to “researching the state of protected animals and creating a presentation” and “talking to people who are working in the field I hope to work in and making a report in English.”
During the two-day session, the participants made comments such as, “From now on, my way of thinking during my everyday life has changed.” Another participant said, “After listening to the foreign students’ stories, I found hope for my future! First, I will try my best to overcome my challenge.” The foreign students also shared comments like, “By sharing my story with participants, we could encourage one another.”
The two days were not only a learning experience for the high school women, but also for the international students who presented their challenges and for the mentors who supported the participants. During the next session, STEP 3, entitled “Session with Global Career Women,” employees from various companies that support the TOMODACHI Initiative will share their stories about how they carved their own paths in work and in life as they discuss “choices for my future.”