This year marks the third year of exchange between Boonsboro High School in Maryland and students from the city of Iwate, Japan. During the last week of September, ten students from Kanagawa Prefectural Shichirigahama Senior High School and five government officials from Iwate visited Boonsboro High School for a day of scavenger hunts, dancing, and sharing of cultures. According to the Maryland State Department of Education, Boonsboro High School raised the most for the Japanese earthquake relief fund (Operation Japan) in 2011. Originally the money was raised to send students studying Japanese at the school on a trip to Japan, but in the aftermath of the earthquake, the funds were directed to support relief efforts instead. The Kanagawa governor was so thankful that he visited the school in 2011 to formalize a “sister school” agreement between Boonsboro High and Shichirigahama Senior High.
Relations between Maryland and Japan have been strong since 1982, when Marylandand Kanagawa Prefecture established a sister state relationship. Schools in Maryland have offered many other opportunities for educational exchange through the Sakura Grant, which gives funding to regional high schools to pursue cultural exchanges with high schools in Japan. Since 1982, Roosevelt High, for example, has been a sister school to Yokohama Suiran High in Kanagawa, and has utilized the grant for various cultural exchange projects including classes, field trips, and home-stays.
Universities across Maryland are very proactive in fostering educational exchanges and do so through various student exchange programs with partner universities in Japan. The University of Maryland offers special opportunities such as the Language House Immersion Program which provides students the chance to receive daily language and cultural immersion in an organized environment. Students there can also receive global scholarships such as the Bridging Scholarship, which offers American undergraduate students funding to participate in study abroad programs in Japan.
While Maryland is not alone in maintaining robust educational exchange with partners in Japan among US states, the opportunities available ensure that its students have the chance to develop knowledge of the US-Japan relationship and contribute to its strength in the future.
Raveena Ugale is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Senior at the George Washington University.