Late July brings Princeton University’s Holder Hall to life with excitement as 40 American and 40 Japanese students fill the campus with loud chatter and laughter. Ten exceptional days are spent learning about one another’s cultures, cavorting, and forging lifelong friendships. I was fortunate to be selected as a High School Diplomat (HSD) during the summer of 2016, and my heart and soul will forever roam the halls with previous participants. Once you have had “the best ten days of your life,” a little piece of you always remains in Holder Hall. This cross-cultural exchange program is transformative. My time with HSD started off with dance parties and pep rallies. Two of my fondest memories of the program include when I coaxed my roommate to prance through a campus fountain and when I persuaded her to wear a funky, offbeat, neon orange lipstick for rock star night. We were all pushed by each other to reach beyond what we normally would do, to grab every opportunity, to let our hair down, and to have fun without fearing rejection. Our friendships were enriched by celebrations. Faces were streaked with red, white, and blue as we were decked out in American apparel and engaged in a typical Fourth of July festival. An ominous air crept in the courtyard as we all dressed in Halloween garb, and our counselors festooned the hall with cobwebs and converted themselves into zombies to show the horrors of Halloween. The evening of Bunka-No-Hi brought forth a cultural festival from over 6,000 miles away as each of us adorned ourselves in Yukata (a Japanese garment, a casual summer kimono). Getting into a Yukata and walking in one proved harder than one may think, but the experience was unforgettable. Stumbling a bit in our Yukata, we visited stations, sampled Japanese fare, and partook in traditional Japanese pastimes. We awoke most mornings to become versed in the basic foundations of the Japanese language and culture. Learning calligraphy, simple Japanese words, and how to properly roll sushi made this class a highlight of each day. The Paula Chow Diplomatic Round Table talks gave us all the chance to be true diplomats. Here, we discussed important components of our societies and how they have lasting world effects. Our days
with High School Diplomats were long and yet ended way too soon. As day ten rolled in and our time came to an end, the aura around the courtyard at Holder Hall changed dramatically. Saddened to leave, we each bid one another farewell, but not goodbye, for one day we will see each other again. One of my friends from the program said, “Our hearts split into 79 pieces that morning. “Not a single one of us would leave those grounds unchanged. Our friendships and memories will stay with us indefinitely. I encourage every high school sophomore and junior, nationwide, to apply for High School Diplomats 2017. Once again, it will be held at Princeton University on July 25, 2017-August 5, 2017 Applications are available online at www.highschooldiplomats.com. Final applications are due no later than January 8, 2017. Selected applicants will be invited for interviews in mid-February and notifications of final acceptance will be given in mid-April 2017. Most program fees are covered through a scholarship upon selection. For questions, contact the American Director, Mrs. Celine Zapolski at (571) 234-5072 or email@example.com.