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“High school diplomats” from Kanagawa looking to interact with U.S. peers

  • July 16, 2016
  • , Yomiuri Kanagawa edition , p. 33
  • Translation

Senior high school students in Kanagawa Prefecture are busy preparing for travel in the U.S. under AIU High School Diplomat, which is an international exchange program celebrating the 30th anniversary this year. They will leave Japan on July 19 and stay on the U.S. East Coast for about three weeks. As “high school diplomats”, they will interact with local peers by holding in-depth discussions on such subjects as politics, history and culture, which will be demonstrated in their presentations.


Takuma Suzuki, a 17-year-old student at Eiko Gakuen all-boys secondary school in Kamakura, has drawn up the processes of the U.S. presidential election in English on a sheet of paper for his presentation in the U.S. “The U.S. system spends a long period of time on selecting the nation’s leader and that is different from Japan,” he explains.


This year, the AIU High School Diplomat program will send a total of 40 second- and third-year senior high school students, 20 male and 20 female students, to the U.S. They were selected out of 904 applicants nationwide via document screenings and English interviews, which were conducted through March.


The 40 students are divided into five-member teams. Each team is assigned a presentation topic. Suzuki’s team was given the topic “Elections and Political Participation by Young People”.


Suzuki and his four other teammates live in different parts of Japan. So they met each other via Skype over the weekend. At first, all of them were nervous and could not talk much, but they gradually opened up to each other. Now they call each other by their first names, regardless of their age.


Through their discussions, they agreed to focus on Japan’s minimum voting age, which has been lowered to 18 years old in the recent House of Councillors election. Suzuki feels that Japan’s politics runs short of policies targeting young voters. “I want to send out a message that encourages young people to cast their ballots,” he says.


A team joined by Maria Kusuda, a 17-year-old student at St. Joseph Gakuen all-girls secondary school in Yokohama’s Tsurumi Ward, was assigned the topic “Regional Characteristics.” The team will introduce the hometowns of the members, who hail from Tohoku, Shikoku and other parts of Japan.


The AIU program opens applications to those who are in junior high school for at least a year and have never lived overseas before. “Our program offers opportunities to expand their potential by interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds,” said a representative from the program’s secretariat. “We want children who have fewer international exchange experiences to take up this challenge.”


AIU High School Diplomats program – Launched in 1987 to foster global-minded personnel. It is sponsored by AIU Insurance Co. and The Freeman Foundation. The program pays for all transportation and accommodations fees. Participants visit U.S. government organizations and the U.N. headquarters in New York and Washington DC. They interact with local peers through such programs as homestay. It has thus far sent a total of 1500 students to the U.S.

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