High School Diplomats (HSD) 2019
This past summer, I had the honor of attending the High School Diplomats (HSD) U.S Program, where I spent 12 incredibly fulfilling, educational, memorable, and life-changing days with 39 other American students and 40 Japanese students.
Last fall, I was sitting down at my dining table and trying to find a unique summer experience, one that would combine my love of meeting new people and learning about the world. That’s how I found HSD. It has two opportunities: the HSD U.S program and then also, HSD Japan, which gives 20 HSD U.S alums the chance to travel to Japan, tour the vibrant cities, experience a homestay, and spend time with other Japanese students and roommates. It’s similar to the U.S experience, but different in it’s atmosphere, activities, and culture.
For my application, I wrote two essays, one about what made me unique and another about a situation where I demonstrated leadership. After submitting those, signing the release form, getting a teacher recommendation, and finishing the online application, I received an email about the next step of the process: the interview. It was held at a local church, and when I got there, I met HSD alums, as well as four other applicants -- who ended getting accepted to HSD with me! During the interview, I got to talk to a former HSD participant about my passions, hobbies, what skills I would bring to the program, and what I wanted to get out of it.
A few weeks later, I got the notification that I received a very awaited email. When I got my acceptance to HSD, I was jumping around my house for a solid 20 minutes! I was assigned to be part of J2, one of two student “teams” at HSD, and the American Government group, where I conversed with fellow American students to create a presentation that we would give to both American and Japanese students at HSD.
Finally, the day to leave for HSD had come. The presentation materials were finished, my suitcase was packed, schedule placed snugly in a folder, and the car was loaded. My family dropped me off to the charter bus, which I would take up to Princeton with a large amount of the other American students. We had so much fun throughout the ride, blasting music, playing “Heads Up,” and talking about our individual experiences applying for HSD. A lot of my nerves disappeared before we got to Princeton, especially after seeing how sweet and friendly the other students were.
The few days leading up to the arrival of the Japanese students were filled with informational sessions, us making welcome posters for our roommate, and preparing for the next 12 days of HSD U.S. I was so excited to meet my roommate, Mona, and I remember writing a letter to myself to be confident, spontaneous, and truly make the most out of this magical experience. We all grabbed our signs and clustered around the edge of the sidewalk, eager to see the bus and greet our Japanese roommates! I remember Mona was the second to come out of the bus, and when we saw each other, she gave me a huge hug. It was in that moment that Mona and I’s friendship started, and we were inseparable from that day on.
Throughout those magical 12 days, I learned so much about diplomacy, ethics, the differences and similarities between Japan and the U.S, and the stories we shared from back home. We danced to Japanese and American music on HSD Night Out, stuffed our faces with pancakes from PJ's, laughed until our ribs hurt, dressed up for spirit days, exchanged our flags, and learned so much about what it is to be a global citizen.
I can’t fully describe HSD to someone who hasn’t experienced it, as words don’t truly do justice to it. The program further emphasized how incredibly important it is to grab life by the horns, step out of your comfort zone, and I guess, rather fittingly, to “seize the wind.” In my time there, I performed in front of people for the first time, met people from all across the world, tried guava juice in the dining hall (and liked it!), wore traditional Japanese attire, got to experience dorm life at Princeton University, learned that portable fans are a blessing in the New Jersey humidity, and learned more about society (and my place in it). The best lives are lived without any comfort zones, and HSD taught me to seek “discomfort” and say yes to more opportunities. Now, I don't want to spoil any of the experience for you (future applicant), but I will say that through HSD, I have made so many best friends, created a lifelong bond with my roommate Mona, got a chance to view the world in a different light, and discovered more about myself along the way. I encourage anyone to apply for this program, as it truly is life-changing.
If you'd like to apply, visit highschooldiplomats.com/apply, and click "Start your online application." All current sophomores and juniors nationwide are eligible to apply, and the application deadline is January 8th, 2020. The program lasts from July 22nd to August 2nd, 2020, and applicants selected for interviews will be contacted mid-February to schedule an interview, and final decisions will be released no later than April 15, 2020.
Mrs. Celine Zapolski, American Director