by Addie Gerszberg ’18
While rest seemed to be a critical part of many students’ agendas this past summer, so was learning for the many of us who take the time to investigate passions that the busy grind of the school year often prohibits us from pursuing. For me, those passions are international relations and learning more about the world’s languages and cultures. This summer, I focused my attention on learning about Japan after I was grateful to have been accepted to the High School Diplomats Program at Princeton University.
This program, which has run for the last 30 years thanks to the generosity of AIU Insurance Company of Tokyo and the Freeman Foundation, focuses on friendship, community, and peace: values that were all consistent with what I have learned at George School. During the ten days of this program, my Japanese roommate, Hana, and I had the opportunity to see diplomacy at its most basic level: through friendship. Through each days’ themes and scheduling, all of the Japanese and American students engaged in meaningful activities and conversations. I will never forget when my friend, Mizuki, from Hiroshima, shared her grandmother’s experience of the atomic bombings of their city during World War II. Likewise, my friend Sayaka’s story about being from Fukushima and the impact the nuclear power plant disaster following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 has had on her life was also profoundly moving. Through these friendships, what I had previously only learned in history books, came to life, and while those examples are of atrocities, the positive stories these new friends have shared are already too numerous to count. These jovial experiences of connection among us “high school diplomats” are best exemplified through two of my favorite days of the program: the Japanese culture festival and the Paula Chow Diplomat Talks.
During the festival, I gained cultural insights, and a closeness to Hana, that I had not had before through partaking in a traditional tea ceremony, appreciating the art of calligraphy, and playing games. This experience was only strengthened by wearing traditional Japanese dresses called yukata (light cotton kimono) with Hana. This gift from my roommate is one I treasure dearly.
While the festival was light hearted, the Diplomat Talks took on a more serious note, enabling all of the Japanese and American students to have discussions about the world in which we live. Being a George School student and having learned about how to have these kinds of difficult discussions was the best preparation I could have had to fully embrace the experience. The program and my education complimented each other, and while George School has taught me how to be an engaged community member, High School Diplomats enhanced my ability to be a global citizen. Now a month after I have completed the program, I have been gifted with lasting friendships and a new knowledge set that has already enriched my first classes back at school. I hope more George School students can take part in this life altering experience, and current sophomores and juniors can check the program’s website for the application (available online from 9/15/2017–1/8/2018) for this fully funded opportunity.*
*For more information please visit the website: Highschooldiplomats.com or contact the American Director, Mrs. Celine Zapolski at (571) 234-5072 or firstname.lastname@example.org