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AshitaTomorrow

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Ashita-Tomorrow supports international communication program using Skype (Internet video communication) between the affected high school students and American high school and college students.

2019 Summer Visiting Tohoku Program

Two students from Yale University who participated in Ashita Skype Sessions for the school year 2018-2019 visited three Tohoku high schools from June 10 through June 14, 2019. The students were guided by Ms. Masako Ueda of Ashita-Tomorrow
The two Yale students were Dorothy Wu, who is a PhD student majoring Sociology, and Freshman Tony Wang. Both Dorothy and Tony are originally from China and were coming to Tokyo for summer Japanese language school. They arrived a week early because they wanted to meet with their Skype session partners in Japan, and to visit other participating Japanese schools in Tohoku. They wanted this opportunity to tell the Japanese students what is available to them in the USA and to expand their horizon.

Here was their itinerary
Date Schedule
6/11/2019 Tue. Take Shinkansen(bullet train, 新幹線) at 8:02 from JR Ueno Station. Meet with Skype sessions participants at Kesennuma High School; presentations and communication at two (2) classes.
6/12/2019 Wed. Visit the great earthquake memorial remains. Leave for Ichinoseki station from Kesennuma by rental car. Visit Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School. Meet with Skype session partners and presentations to the students from International Baccalaureate Program. Dr. David Satterwhite also made presentations regarding the opportunities to study abroad. After the meetings, enjoy the Japanese drum(Taiko) and calligraphy performances by the Japanese students. Home stay.
6/13/2019 Thur. Visit Iwaki High School and meet with Skype partners, give them a presentation, followed by the Japanese students cultural presentations of Kado (Japanese flower arrangements) and Wadaiko (Japanese drums). Home stay.
6/14/2019 Fri. Vsit Naraha Center for Remote Control Technology Development operated by Japan Atomic Energy Agency (Facility to research the remote clean-up operation of Fukushima nuclear power plant). Return to Ueno (Tokyo) in the evening.

■Further friendship with Japanese high school students:
From 2018 October till 2019 May, Dorothy was communicating with the students of Sendai Ikuei, and Tony with the students of Iwaki High School. With the recent visit to Tohoku, both have deepened their friendship. Dorothy and Tony stayed at the Japanese students’ homes in Sendai and Iwaki City, and had a wonderful experience. Both promised to meet with the 3rd year Iwaki Students again on July 31 this year in Tokyo.

■Talked about their experiences and dreams
Dorothy and Tony, who are natives of China, told the Japanese students about their reasons why they wanted to study in the USA; their experiences including many people’s help, their dreams and responsibilities.

■Exchange comments with Japanese students
Some Japanese students expressed their comments about studying abroad. Not only we can meet with various people, and accumulate the global knowledge by studying in foreign countries, but by polishing English capabilities, we will be able to make clear image of what we want to do.

We discussed about the statistics of the Japanese students wanting to study abroad. Among the teens and people in their twenties, 32.3% want to study abroad, and the number of the students who want to study abroad for more than 1 year is less than20%.One of the reasons why not too many students can think about studying abroad is due to the fact that the tuitions are very high. However, quite a few American universities offer financial aids to the students who are accepted by the universities including foreign students, and Dorothy and Tony encourage the Japanese students to think positively as the tuitions can be paid by the universities.

Dorothy Wu (PhD student at Yale University)
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Thank you Ashita-Tomorrow program and Ueda-san for a very meaningful trip in Tohoku. East Japan suffered severely from the Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Traveling there not only made me realize the consequences that natural disasters could have on the local communities, but also how Japanese people strived hard to deal with the disaster. The courage to acknowledge preventable mistakes and the effort to preserve the memory to integrate it into a part of Japanese identity, are all very awe-inspiring to me. Giving talks at different high schools in Kesennuma, Sendai, and Iwaki enabled me to closely interact with Japanese high schoolers, understand the educational system better, and witness many aspects of the Japanese culture that I could not see as a tourist. With the guidance and care from Ueda-san, we navigated different places without difficulty but with a lot of meaningful conversations. Seeing the efforts Ashita-Tomorrow program put into enlightening the Japanese youths also makes me think about what I can do for the people and communities I care about, or people suffering from natural disasters in my own country. In general, Tohoku trip is the most meaningful thing I could have done in Japan. Thank you, to the Ashita program and Ueda-san, for this very precious opportunity!

Tony Wang (Yale University, Sophomore in September 2019)
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From June 10th to June 14th, as volunteers of Ashita-Tomorrow, Ueda-san, Dorothy and I went on a trip to the Tohoku region to visit the schools we hold weekly skype sessions with in Kesennuma, Sendai and Iwaki. The trip was amazingly planned by Ueda-san and wonderfully coordinated by Kitagawa-san in the US. The trip was undoubtedly eye-opening for me as it has been almost ten years since I last visited Japan―which was before the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in 2011―and I got to witness the changes and the efforts poured into the reconstruction process.

The first city we visited was Kesennuma, a city at the coastline which was terribly hit by the tsunami. Most of the town was destroyed and people were evacuated to other places. Eight years have passed, and the reconstruction of the city has almost erased the trace of the destructions done by the tsunami. However, when we were driving to the city from the countryside, enormous land that were used to be inhabited by the local is now empty with only newly built buildings. However, when we visited the school, we saw the school vibrantly occupied with students doing different extracurricular activities. We heard that most of the students have moved to other places after the disaster but they continue to make efforts commuting to the school for their education. It was impressive to see that efforts were made to insure the access of quality education. Then, we visited the Sendai Ikuei High School. The two campuses of the school were both astonishingly beautiful. Having visited Japan’s best calligraphy club there, and watched the Taiko performance, we were all impressed by the quality of the facilities, the diversity in the faculty team and most importantly, the talents in all of the students.

On the fourth day, we visited Iwaki High School and I got to meet the two students I skyped with for the first time. It was so incredible an experience to accompany my Japanese buddies-Kota and Futa-to walk and visit the stationary store and cafe they often visit. Futa and Kota are both seniors in high school and are working hard in preparation for their college entrance examination. The conversation we had in the cafe, unlike the online classes we had, were so much more intimate and I got to know them better as two hard-working young adults. I couldn’t help but remembering my high school years and all the crazy dreams that I had. During our visit, I felt extremely proud to see how Kota and Futa interacted with their fellow students and took leadership. I saw a bright future in both of them-one looking forward to studying abroad in the near future and another on his way to achieve his own goals within Japan. It was as if the "3-11" had never happened and the two young souls-two of the hundreds and thousands of young students in Japan-dream hard, work hard, and strive to realize their goals and become leaders of the next generation.

The mission of Ashita-Tomorrow program and this sponsored trip is to bring an international perspective to the students from the area affected by the disaster in 2011. It was not too surprised to see-after a year of continuous efforts in trying bridge the gap between age and culture-that many of the Japanese high school students nowadays are still fairly reluctant when it comes to studying abroad. It is very true that Japan has a very unique social system and the late introduction to English to some extent has hindered many students’ ability to effectively communicate if they desire to study abroad. Ashita believes the students should have the agency to make their own decisions regarding studying abroad. and Ashita-Tomorrow through connecting the students with many college students from different cultures and background, opens a window for Japanese students to the outside world and provides them with a ladder-the ability to communicate freely in English-to access the resources outside Japan. By providing them with rich information and the right tools it helps the students to make these important decisions. As for the college students participating in the program is definitely a great opportunity to learn about Japan through the eyes of the young generation. Through the program, the participant can also attain great friendships that can last a life time.

International Exchange by Skype


For the school year starting September 2018, we started on October 29, 2018.

Skype sessions started in October 2011 by Alyssa Zupon, then a Sophomore of Yale University, and a few students at Kesennuma High School in Miyagi prefecture. It has now expanded to include Iwaki High School, and Fukushima Kousen (national 5 year Technical school) and Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School (private school). On the USA side, it now includes not only Yale University, but Duke University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Horace Mann High School and Pingry High School.

The goal of the Skype Sessions is to provide the opportunity to practice the English conversation and to exchange comments and views of f everyday life regarding cultural difference and similarities, with the hope that through this experience, the students will expand their visions for the future.

Participants were as follows for the school year starting October 2018:

■ Japanese students
   Kesennuma High School (Miyagi-ken)   12
   Iwaki High School (Fukushima-Ken)   12
   Fukushima Kousen (Fukushima-Ken)   9
   Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School(Miyagi-ken)    27
   Ashita Alumni (College students)    4

■ USA Volunteers:
   Yale University   13
   Duke University   5
   コColumbia University   4
   Cornell University   1
   Horace Mann High School   8
   Pingry High School   1

Ashita also provides the Japanese schools with PC and/or tablets when needed.
Alyssa Zupon - Founder of Ashita Skype Sessions
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When I first visited Kesennuma High School in July 2011, I was shocked by the devastation by March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Even though four months had passed, it looked as though the disaster had just swept through the town and most of the area was still in rubble. I was overwhelmed initially and felt that something needed to be done for the people who suffered so much. At our meeting that Ms. Masako Ueda set up with Kesennuma High School’s principal and director of teachers, I proposed the idea of talking to students via Skype (internet video conferencing) as an immediate way to connect with the victims of the disaster. I wanted the students to know that I, and others, care about them and that they are not alone during their difficult recovery process. Further, English is a very important subject in the Japanese education, English conversation would be beneficial academically as well. The Skype tutoring sessions began in October 2011 and have since expanded to include over 18 American volunteers (from Yale University and Horace Mann High School) and several dozens of Japanese students.

Interacting with the students over Skype every week was a very rewarding experience, but it was extremely special to meet students selected from the Skype-session participants in 2013. This experience has taught me how one small idea or person can lead to incredible results by collecting many people’s goodwill. Also, I started with the intention of helping the victims of the disaster, but I also learned from their courage, perseverance, and appreciation for everything and they have reminded me what is important for life.

I am a resident medical doctor now and my schedule does not allow me to participate the Skype sessions, but am very happy to see the program expanding. The Ashita programs represent the goals of this organization, which include sharing ideas and cultures, and gaining strength and inspiration from others. With these aims, I see great potential for further expansion in new directions, too. Because Ashita encourages creativity, proactive attitudes, and dynamic thinking, I am looking forward to see this organization expand its reach and build future leaders in Japan and the world.

A message from Mr. Hideo Komatsu, English teacher at Kesennuma High School
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Since the 2011 disaster, with the support of NPO Ashita-Tomorrow, Kesennuma High School has had Skype-based sessions with American students. In the first 2011, only five students participated due to the insufficient Internet environment at the school. Now, about twenty students signed up. The school had to find another classroom to accommodate all the participants. This year, we improved the environment for the Skype sessions (more classrooms, limiting the maximum number of students), so the students enjoy weekly exchange with their counterparts in the U.S. The sessions greatly motivate the Kesennuma students in their efforts to study English. Also the students develop better understanding of various ways of thinking and gain wider perspectives on the world outside of Japan.

A message from Ms.Kaori Ishiyama, Director of academic affairs of special academic advancement course at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School
Alyssa_headshot
This year Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School joined the Ashita-Tomorrow program. We sent several students to Express Yourself! Workshop at Horace Mann School in summer.

In October, twenty seven students started participating in the Ashita-Tomorrow Skype Session. The students are doing their best in communicating in English with the American students. Our students learn the American daily life, culture and school system. Some students are interested in attending American universities, and happy to receive valuable advices from their American partners.
We are grateful for Ashita-Tomorrow for giving our students these great experiences.



☆Watch students enjoy the Skype sessions FB
Meet a few of our Skype session volunteers
Meet the Students

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