American High School Students Learn More About Leadership and Resilience Through the TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program 

The eleventh annual TOMODACHI MUFG International Exchange Program was conducted virtually starting on May 9 with an orientation that was attended by both Kanetsugu Mike, Chairman at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Suzanne Basalla, President and CEO at the U.S.-Japan Council. The program concluded with final presentations from the students on August 6.

The program consisted of three training sessions on the topic of “Leadership and Resiliency.” During the first session, USJC Member Jim Minamoto shared his mother’s story with the audience, which detailed how she was able to remain resilient despite multiple setbacks even following the Second World War. One of the program participants, Sarah Okuno said, “learning about chosen and unchosen suffering was a new and unique concept. I will definitely incorporate the knowledge that you can improve your situation of your own volition, rather than fighting with your past and feeling regret into my life.” 

The second training session was led by three TOMODACHI alumni from the Tohoku region Ayaka Obata, Ryota Konno, and Yuta Noji who were all high school students at the time of the disaster, shared their firsthand experiences of the disaster with program participants. The three alumni also shared how TOMODACHI programs have impacted their lives and their careers. 

“The TOMODACHI programs have taught me the importance of passion and resilience. The stories of the TOMODACHI alumni were inspiring and [it was very] motivating to hear how they found their passions and stuck to them. Growing up with multiple experiences of [adapting to] changing environments including [changing] schools, cities, and countries, resilience is one of the most essential lessons I have learned. The ability to recover quickly from difficulties can help us to have a better mentality and achieve our goals.”

During the third week, six TOMODACHI alumni from Tohoku who joined last year’s program shared a video they had prepared in which they shared their experiences as Japanese high school students. American and Japanese students cultivated their friendships by sharing their interests with one another and discovered countless similarities despite cultural differences.

The program concluded with the participants sharing what they learned, and how they will stay connected with the TOMODACHI community.