A Time for Reflection: The 25th Anniversary of My Life-Changing Experience in Japan
By Renee Clarke, Employer Relations Manager
I just got a notice from a sister sponsor that I am hitting my 25th anniversary of when I was an exchange student on the high school one-year program to Japan. What an opportunity for reflection! During this time of reminiscing and reflecting, I knew I needed to share more on how this homestay experience in Japan influenced me a quarter-century ago. This experience truly impacted my life. When I tell “my story,” I usually start with that experience. In striving not to make this entry 25 years long, I used a thesaurus to help me gather my thoughts. Here are some synonyms for “influenced” that best summarize my pivotal year.
Affected – My perspective has been affected by how I see the world. Participating in multi-cultural activities starting in Japan, I got to meet so many people from cultures I did not know existed. I became so interested in their stories and simple comparisons of our experiences.
Altered – Traditions in my home have never been the same; they have been altered since my time abroad. Each New Years, I send year-of-the-[fill in the current Chinese zodiac animal] postcard. Now that I am a parent, I get my kids in on the act. Friends and family are officially on the look-out for the 2016 Year of the Monkey rendition.
Changed – My food choices and tastes have changed. Not only does everyone know where we will eat when it is my turn-to-pick, but I prefer and attempt to use chopsticks whenever I can!
Determined – I am determined to keep my Japanese up. I have been lucky to have found Japanese-language exchange partners over the years, but I still challenge myself to read my kids the Japanese version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Harapeko Aomushi.
Formed – I formed an everlasting bond with my host family and the friends I made that year. I was touched when my husband and I went to Japan on our 2nd wedding anniversary and he confided in me that he was nervous to meet my last set of parents.
Moved – My experience moved me to incorporate some Japanese traditions in my life. Our wedding guests still remember how we performed the Sake Ceremony.
Persuaded – My experience in Japan persuaded me to invest in community. Knowing what it was like to be surrounded in a new language, I really enjoyed being involved in English as a Second or Other Language programs as a conversation partner.
Shaped – My experience in Japan shaped my outlook. I am so grateful to my father and stepmother who encouraged me to take this first step to becoming the person I am today. Each year, since I was 15 years old, I have been so thankful for the experience I had in Japan. I realize more and more how truly lucky I was.
While you are still young, take the trip of a lifetime and live overseas! There is still time left to join the Work and Travel Program with CCI Greenheart.