Konichiwa! I am writing you from a plane somewhere between Toronto, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. Why you may ask? This past week I was able to participate in the Japan Coast Guard Academy’s International Exchange Program. It was a one-week program that included cadets from JCGA (Japan Coast Guard Academy), KMU (Korean Maritime University) and CCGC (Canadian Coast Guard College) and the USCGA. During the week, we toured their campus, sat in on a special lecture, participated in their sports time, and lived in their dormitories. It was one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my Coast Guard cadet career! It was wonderful to meet and make friends with the Japanese, Korean, and Canadian cadets, and thanks to Facebook and email, I plan to stay in touch and grow my relationships with all of them. I cannot truly describe the kindness and professionalism displayed by the Japanese cadets that hosted us. They were respectful, self-discipline, warm-hearted, and at times, extremely funny! They were also very patient with us in regard to the very large language barrier.
One of my favorite experiences during the week was when my four roommates took me out sightseeing. The sights were absolutely beautiful (I took so many pictures), but the coolest part was that we all wore the traditional Japanese dress, Yukata. It was awesome to dress up with them and walk around in their cultural wear. Additionally, they had me try every type of Japanese food imaginable, and by the end of the week, I was wielding my chopsticks like a champ. My favorite was probably Ramen (not to be confused with the Kroger 15 cent “ramen”) and Korean BBQ, but there were really only a few dishes that I can say I would not eat again. I could probably spend a whole blog talking about the food, but I would just recommend you go and try it yourself. :)
While it may seem like the Coast Guard sent me to Japan for a super awesome vacation, I really felt like the trip was much, much more than that. The purpose of the trip was for each of the different countries represented to meet and learn about each other. The hope is that this sort of program will help grow the friendly relationship between the Coast Guards of Japan, Korea, Canada and the U.S., which work together on a daily basis. From my perspective, this purpose was definitely achieved. It was very eye-opening to see the different cultures that I will be working with and to learn how they operate and think. I hope to work alongside many of the Japanese, Korean, and Canadian cadets in the future, when we are officers in our respective Coast Guards.
It is programs like this that I think help build and nourish a peaceful relationship with our neighboring cultures. I will definitely take advantage of any opportunity to return to the Japan Coast Guard Academy or other exchange programs in the future. One exciting note is that USCGA is going to host four of the JCGA cadets that we met this past week, so the exchange goes both ways. Thank you, Coast Guard Academy, for allowing me this wonderful experience! As always, feel free to contact me with questions about this program or any other questions. Go Bears and God Bless.
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