The USA e Youkoso
This Friday my family and I met the AFS student from Japan we will be hosting for the next 10 months. We have hosted before, for shorter periods, or last year when I was on exchange, but never for this long as a family of four.
We are all very excited and we hope we can provide Masaki a memorable experience here in the US. If you see him around, feel free to stop him in the halls and introduce yourself. I think he is very excited to learn about the US.
Some people talk about how beneficial an experience it is for a student to go abroad, but I think it can be easy to forget how much the student benefits his/her host community. With the modern news, it can be easy to only think of the political side of a country without remembering all the normal people living there. It might not always be easy to remember, but every single person in this world wants a safe place for their family, enough food to live and a sense of happiness.
Last summer in Russia, some of the other exchange students and I asked our friends there what they thought of Putin. Some liked him, some disliked him, but the most common response, was that they have enough food on their plates, a roof over their head, and they are living happily with their family. My host family in Russia was incredibly kind, and after only minutes of being there I had countless examples to dispel any doubts some people in the US had about going on exchange to Russia after Putin annexed Crimea.
Likewise, after coming back from Germany, people often told me how glad they were that I was back in the US away from the numerous terrorist attacks going on in Europe right now. Interestingly enough, there were actually more mass shootings in the US in 2015 than there were terror attacks in Europe (375 vs. 211 according to BBC and Time, respectively). Note, in some parts of the world, terror attacks outnumber both of these figures combined
What I am trying to say is that a vast majority of, if not all, countries are remarkably similar on a personal level, and that is what makes programs such as AFS or other exchanges so crucial to world peace. While the US may not be in conflict with Japan at the moment, I wish Masaki the best of luck on ensuring that peace between our nations lasts for generations to come. Welcome to the USA, Masaki, and I look forward to getting to know you this year :)
Photo is of my family and I with the gifts Masaki so generously bought us, and of course the Japanese Flag.