Rachel Tang is a student at Pacifica High School who participated in the TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program 2013 in Japan. Below is what she experienced and learned from the program.
Discovering one’s identity is such a difficult task to do when one’s perspective is very narrow, in my opinion. When you have an opportunity to observe a lifestyle different from your own, you realize that this world has much to offer and that it works in a way where you don’t understand culture until you experience it for yourself. My experience in Japan has impelled self-growth, urging me to leave my comfort zone and to try new things. It is truly a privilege and accomplishment to make attempts in relating with people who don’t even speak the same language as yours and successfully doing so.
Japan was extraordinarily rich in culture, history, and breath-taking sights—the night life in Kyoto, breathtaking greenery incorporated into cities, riding sharp and efficient Shinkansen, and an unusual first time experience in an Onsen: I fell in love.
The entire 2-week span was a process of falling in love with Japan and discovering myself along the way. Every moment I spent learning something new about the culture, I fell deeper in love. And the process is personal, one can’t do it any justice by words, rather it’s an experience you must find out for yourself. It is inspiring, life changing, and even better than what you expect. You gain so much appreciation that it inspires you to enter the world with an open-mind and a craving to never stop learning more about what a culture has to offer.
Speech at Meet and Greet
Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Rachel des. I apologize, my Japanese is very limited; however, I know, without a doubt, that it will further expand within the course of the next two weeks. I am 16 years old and I attend Pacifica high school from Garden Grove, California.
Prior to this trip, I did not know much about Japan nor its customs… but with the little knowledge I had, it encouraged me evermore to take action, discover, and to find answers for myself. For me, my interest in Japan blossomed through the help of a volunteer club on my school campus called “Interact”. As a former President, it was my duty to attend meetings on a monthly basis, where I met with another volunteer group who happened to be very Japanese based, therefore most of our volunteer services were centered on Japanese events. For a particular instance, the owner of Tanaka farms located back in California had asked for the help of volunteers at a local “Walk the Farm” event to continue to raise awareness and to send love to the farmers affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He told his personal story and his connection with Japanese farmers– It touched my heart, and several days later, I learned about this foreign exchange opportunity through one of the club advisors. I knew it was fate, and here I am standing now.
Your Excellency, Ambassador Roos: Words cannot come close to accurately describing the many thanks we send to you. Nonetheless, let me start by saying, on behalf of the 2ndTomodachi MUFG Initiative participants, it is such an honor to be here in Japan and to be given this learning experience and opportunity. Upon arrival, it had finally dawned upon us how significant this program truly is. We continue to hear that we’re the foundation of the future U.S.-Japan relationship, and we’ve come to truly believe it. We are proud to have been selected, as this experience influences us all to be interactive rather than passive in an environment that has so much to teach us. With these lessons that have been and will be taught, I realized that we hold the power in our hands to make a difference and to leave an impact. Thank you, Ambassador Roos for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us and allowing this dream to come true. We continue to thank you, even when in the future, we all become leaders shaped by this trip and you, Ambassador Roos. Thank you.