Many students who have studied abroad participate in the U.S. Embassy’s “Girls Unlimited Program (GUP)” for female students of junior and senior high schools.
Erina Kondo, 17, a second year student at a private high school in Tokyo, has dreamed of studying abroad since she was in junior high school. To her father’s objection that “it’s dangerous for a girl to go,” she persuaded him that, “In this time and age, it makes no difference if you are a boy or a girl.” She lived in the U.S. for 10 month from the summer of her first year in high school.
Her host family was full of stuff and covered by dust and cobwebs. It was sort of like a garbage house. She urged her host family to clean up and actually became close to them by helping them in the process. She appeared in a musical at the local public high school she attended. She also tried out cross-country run and other extracurricular activities. Her study abroad experience taught her “you won’t know without trying.” Through her participation in the GUP, she was influenced by the experience and views of the guests and participants, and she feels that she is now even more positive.
Sayaka Oshima, 14, a second year student of Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School, went to study abroad for two weeks during the winter vacation. She was a bit hesitant at first, thinking it would be too early to go abroad. However, Inspired by the GUP, she took the initiative to look up a language school in California and applied to study there.
On the first day of school, she did not know how to change bus on her way home and ended up waiting alone at a dark bus stop for over one hour. Despite the mishap, the fact that her limited English was actually understood gave her confidence.
Her experience also taught her that the notion that people would somehow understand even if you don’t speak up clearly does not work. A friend of hers went shopping with her host family, but she had not been asked. She sought her friend’s advice and decided to ask her host family to take her. They took her on the next day. This made her have a keen awareness of the importance of verbal communication – if you speak up, you’ll be understood, but if you don’t, people will not understand.
After listening to astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and other women playing leading roles in society at the GUP, Sayaka is beginning to feel that she wants to be an entrepreneur. She is currently interested in aid for refugees and computer programming. She is starting to think that she wants to solve social problems through her business ventures.