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    Photo By Yoshie Makiyama | Students relax and chat with each other before the closing ceremony.... read more read more



    Story by Yoshie Makiyama 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    Students from Ginowan City and Lester Middle School (LMS) came together for the 2022 Youth Exchange Program at Camp Lester, Oct. 1-2, 2022.

    Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) - Pacific Region, the program was held for the first time in Okinawa as a bilateral initiative to build friendships and foster diverse perspectives.

    The Youth Exchange Program (YEP) was launched in 2020 with support from the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan, and U.S. Forces Japan. However, due to COVID-19, Misawa Air Force Base, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, was the only place to host the event that year.

    According to Miranda Ferguson, Pacific region communications director of DoDEA, the 2022 school year was the first year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the YEP is scheduled at U.S. military bases throughout Japan. The partnership provides an opportunity for Japanese and DoDEA students to participate in educational and cultural exchange during the two-day program.

    Eleven eighth graders from LMS and 10 junior high students from Ginowan participated.

    The students from Ginowan were selected through a speech contest during the previous school year in which they could have had a chance to participate in the study abroad program. That did not occur due to the pandemic.

    However, the city provided those students with language training in Tokyo, then joined YEP hoping to give the students more opportunity to further enhance the knowledge and communication skills by interacting with native English speaking children.

    LMS students, on the other hand, went through an application process, which included explaining why they wished to take part in the program.

    Ruka Sato, a junior high school student affiliated with Showa Pharmaceutical University, said that during her language training in Tokyo in August, the English teacher spoke in a way that was easy for the students to understand (by breaking up sentences). However, after explaining her concern that this would not be the case when speaking English with local people abroad solely on her own, she smiled and said "but today, surprisingly, I was able to communicate with my own words, writing, and gestures, so I am very happy. It was really a good experience."

    She thought it was refreshing to see that LMS is not like Japanese schools even though it is in Japan. Sato was also surprised to see the atmosphere of American students was similar to that of Japanese. They were also nervous and tense at first but gradually began to open up, laughing and talking.

    On the first day of the program, the students were divided into four groups. They introduced themselves to each other, came up with names for their groups, played games, introduced others in the opposite language, talked about culture shocks and gave presentations.

    On the second day, they compared their daily life as a student to find the differences and similarities in culture and lifestyle of both countries. They also played a team game such as tongue twisters in both English and Japanese, designed a local mascot to promote the place they live and made presentations.

    “Even though I speak Japanese at home, it’s just a language I know, not the culture,” said Ray Bragdon, 12, a student from LMS, whose mother is Japanese. “During this program, I learned a lot about Japanese culture.”

    Claire Deisley, 13, an LMS student, participated because she wanted to speak Japanese with exchange students. Since she had lived in Yokosuka for five years and this is her second year in Okinawa, she was interested in Japanese culture. Although there was a lot of gesturing, she said she really enjoyed being able to talk with Japanese students and immersing herself in the culture.

    At the closing of the Youth Exchange Program, Yuumi Yoshikawa, the parliamentary vice-minister with MOFA, gave a speech to the participants. She was happy to see the students’ faces filled with a sense of accomplishment. She said that exchanging opinions from different perspectives may have led them to rediscover the charm of the place where they live and what it has to offer.

    Yoshikawa continued that to cooperate and share wisdom while making the most of each other's backgrounds is essential to realizing a sustainable society, although working together on the same issues in the midst of cultural differences may have been difficult in many situations.

    “I would be happy if you could make the most of this valuable experience in your future life,” said Yoshikawa. “I believe that the continuation of this friendship will be of great significance to the future development of the U.S.-Japan relationship.”

    Maj. Gen. Stephen E. Liszewski, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, during his closing remarks, thanked MOFA for partnering with DoDEA to conduct the program. To the students, he hoped that they made connections and would remain in touch with one another as they continue to live in Okinawa together, and that they would tell everyone back home what programs they had participated in and what friendships they had formed.


     「日米交流の促進・相互理解の増進のためのプロジェクト」(通称「日米交流事業」、英名「Youth Exchange Program」)」は、在日米国大使館・領事館と在日米軍の協力のもと、2020年に開始された。しかし、初年度は、新型コロナウイルス感染症の影響により青森県にある三沢空軍基地のみの実施に終わる。

















    Date Taken: 01.18.2023
    Date Posted: 01.30.2023 17:58
    Story ID: 437235
    Location: CHATAN, OKINAWA, JP

    Web Views: 131
    Downloads: 0