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Student Delegates Represented the Bethesda Community in Japan

A delegation of ten students from Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, along with two faculty members, participated in a life-changing exchange program to Japan for two weeks this summer.

A delegation of ten students from
Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, along with two faculty members, participated in a
life-changing exchange program to Japan for two weeks this summer. Pyle has
been participating in an exchange program with the small town of Nishiwaga,
Japan for the last twenty years. 

While in Tokyo, the Pyle delegation was
hosted by a former Pyle family and former Pyle students who now live in Japan. The
students soaked in Japanese culture during their trips to Tokyo and Kyoto,
where they visited shrines and temples, experienced culinary specialties such
as and the tuna auction that finishes before sunrise (see photo). As one
student reflects: “I ended up loving the food! As a
(self-proclaimed) foodie, I found Japanese food to be heavenly: from tofu
donuts fresh from the oven to baby octopus, Japan was filled with unique and
delicious food.”

The residents of Nishiwaga, a
mountain village in Northern Japan, played host for the second half of the
program.  The time in Nishiwaga was a
reunion with old friends; Pyle families hosted a delegate of children and
teachers from Nishiwaga in January 2012. 
Each member of the Pyle group stayed with a different family, enjoying
such activities as harvesting tofu, surveying the rice patties, rafting, and
creating artwork unique to the region. 
The group also attended school with their host middle schoolers,
learning Japanese calligraphy, observing their daily school routines (which
include a class period for students to clean their school). The American
delegate led American games and taught dances to over 130 students at two local
Nishiwagan middle schools. 

Cross-cultural awareness is an
important goal for educational programs like this one.  One student says that: ““It’s a small world" relates in many ways to my experience in Japan. First of all, seeing that even
across the globe family values are generally the same, shows how small the
world really has become. Secondly, being able to relate on sports teams,
actors, and school studies shows that with modern day technology the world has
become an incredibly small and connected place.”


            Over the twenty years of this
exchange program, the Pyle community and the Nishiwaga community have inspired
each other.  Following the 2011 tsunami
and earthquake, the Pyle community raised funds to help the people impacted in
the surrounding area of Nishiwaga through Pyle’s annual staff vs. students ping
pong tournament called the Ping-Pong-a-thon. 
In the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese
people have suffered great losses but today are re-building and yearn for
visitors to return to their country. 

The Pyle students returned home
with poignant lessons and great experiences. As a student describes: “My
world view has expanded and I understand how great an impact an exchange
student can have. I learned to appreciate the little things that make life
interesting and to live life to the fullest. Most of all, I have learned how
much two weeks can change you and the value of the special people who I met on
this trip…All in all, this trip taught me what it means to be a global citizen
and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.” Another student reflects: “I love my experience to Japan
because it showed me that I’m just a small part of a very big world. It helped
me realize that the world is unique and there are so many different kinds of
people and culture.”  The visit
from Pyle not only was an educational experience but a celebration of hope for
the future. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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