TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima 2019 supported by the TOMODACHI Combini Fund STEP 2: Students Learn from Exchange Students in Japan and Share Their Own Challenges
On October 26 and 27, 2019, STEP 2 of the TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima 2019, supported by the TOMODACHI Combini Fund, took place in Fukushima Prefecture. The program aims to support female high school sophomores from throughout Fukushima over six months, through four sessions or “STEPS.” Over the course of the program, students gain the confidence to open doors and discover new opportunities for their futures.
As part of STEP 2, themed “challenge,” participants met with 20 foreign exchange students from 11 different countries, including the United States, who are currently studying in Japan. The foreign exchange students, having worked to overcome hardships and consider their dreams and career plans as they study abroad, shared their personal experiences and stories with the participants.
After listening to the foreign students’ stories, the participants were inspired and contemplated “the factors needed to jump into a new world and environment” in teams. They shared different opinions such as: “Don’t be afraid of failure, and keep pushing yourself,” “Don’t blame your circumstances, but actively and boldly take on challenges,” and “Be grateful to those who support you.”
During the workshop, keeping in mind “their own new challenges” they will have to overcome by STEP 3, participants listened as mentors, themselves past participants, recounted stories of challenges and lessons learned from their experiences during the program. After hearing the mentors’ stories, the participants began to think about their own challenges, sharing advice in their teams and creating specific plans.
The participants determined the challenges they want to overcome, developed goals and outlines, and shared their own objectives including: “Interviewing positive-thinking people to inspire myself,” “Visiting Fukushima Prefecture and the local government to discuss Fukushima’s current situation,” “Designing a house with support from a first-class architect who is my friend’s father,” among other various challenges. Though some participants were on the verge of tears as they considered the challenges they sought to overcome, they proudly presented their goals to the whole group and inspired one another.
Reflecting on the two-day session, the participants offered comments such as, “I learned to never give up and hold on to my passions and goals to make my dreams come true. From now on, I’m going to be true to myself and enjoy life the way I want.” Another participant said, “After listening to the foreign students’ and mentors’ stories of challenge, I understood exactly how they felt. I always overthink situations, and feel isolated. But the foreign students’ and mentors’ hardships made them strong and brought their dreams closer. I realized I am not alone and I just need to try my best!”
The two days provided a learning experience not only for the high school students, but also for the international students who shared 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 stories about carving their own paths in work and life as they discuss “choices for my future.”