Hikaru Suzuki spoke at the TOMODACHI Summer 2012 Celebration. A second-year student at Soma High School in Fukushima Prefecture, she participated in the TOMODACHI Summer 2012 Coca-Cola Educational Homestay Program and had an opportunity to live in Salem, Oregon.
I participated in a 2-week homestay with the Coca-Cola TOMODACHI program in Salem, Oregon. My host family was wonderful, and I experienced happiness for those two weeks.
However, whenever I remember my stay in the United States, at the same time, I will always remember the earthquake that occurred in Tohoku. First, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us on the TOMODACHI program.
On March 11, due to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, I experienced evacuee life for the first time in my life. I lost relatives and friends from the tsunami. I felt “death” and I remember living with a feeling of anxiousness because I did not know what lay ahead. When I found out about this program, it had been a year after the disaster, but the “discrimination” and “prejudice” towards Fukushima due to radiation had not vanished. Honestly, that has not changed even now. However, the smiles of the host family that took me in, the other students from different prefectures that participated in the program, and the people I met during the homestay program helped to alleviate this anxiety and distress, and gave me courage and confidence.
What interests me about the United States is vast nature and agriculture. Whenever I stand before vast nature, such as tall mountains or wide oceans, I am overwhelmed with a feeling that I cannot express in words. I have heard that America has many national parks. I am not sure if I would call it an interest, but one of the reasons I am interested in seeing and visiting as many open and vast natural scenery is because it makes me realized how small I am in comparison. The reason I am interested in agriculture is because I studied about the differences between American and Japanese agriculture in school. In supermarkets, I see US-grown vegetables. Even soy beans, which is eaten also eaten as “natto”, is a Japanese food. Since I’ve visited America, I feel a closeness to America and more than before, I feel like it is important that we study American agriculture since it can possibly solve the future food problem.
After I graduate from high school and enter a university, I would like to study to become a veterinarian. In that respect, I am interested in studying how people, and animals live together, how people and nature co-exist, and law related to these matters. Once I graduate from university, I would like to give back to society by being involved in environmental research and research for living plants and animals. I also have another dream. In the future when I get married and have a family, I would like to take them to America to see my host family and teachers again, so I can repay them for what they have done for me.
Because I went to America on this program, I now have a broader perspective on life and I have been able to dream big. This experience is my lifelong treasure. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.