Evan Farley, ‘20
As the first snow of the year descended upon New York City on Saturday, December 9th, the Japan Airlines flight number six landed early at JFK International Airport after fourteen hours in the air. Nine excited BHSEC students and along with Mr. Mikesh, Dr. Chaterpaul, Dr. Edmonds, and Dean Brutsaert, waited in the arrivals hall of Terminal 1, eagerly awaiting the large group of Japanese students who were soon to walk through the customs. It was the first day of the Japan Science Exchange. Now in its seventh year, the exchange matches students from BHSEC Manhattan with students from Nagoya University Affiliated Upper School. In addition to learning about each other’s science project, the exchange students and their partners also learned about one another’s culture
The Japanese students stay in the house of their American partner, dispersed throughout four boroughs. This allows for a different perspective of New York City compared to “the sanitized experience” one might get when staying in a hotel, as Darya Foroohar (10th) explained. Students had a “variety of different experiences in the homes of their partner, and those differences,” said Foroohar, “that’s what makes New York City, and the exchange, so special and authentic.” The Japanese students lived according to the daily routine of their partner, often comprising of dirty streets, delayed trains, and dreary walks that have become the norm for BHSEC students. And the commute, said Foroohar, is “a vital aspect of living in NYC that your average tourist would miss.”
But the exchange students did more than just wait for a train throughout the course of the week. They traveled together, with their American partners, all over the city, exploring tourist sites usually avoided by native New Yorkers. “You really learn how lucky you are to live in New York City when you see your exchange partner’s eyes glow up at every site” says Alex Abrams (Y1). From the East River to Times Square, the Japanese students had their cameras ready for everything. “I never realized how fascinating New York really was until my partner started taking pictures of everything” notes Anwen Burns (Y1). These experiences reveal another important aspect of the exchange, as it offers a chance for the American students to reflect on the famous city in which they grow up.
The exchange, however, offers little time for the American students to dream. By the fifth day of the exchange, a familiar phrase was echoing throughout the group: “I’m so exhausted” said Nicole Gutierrez (Y1). The BHSEC students struggled through a busy week of tests and papers, all the while playing host and tour guide for their partner. “It’s very tiring but also fun” says Foroohar; “It is definitely worth it.”
On Sunday, December 17, the students met back at JFK, this time in the departures terminal. Weary from the long week, they gathered in groups, sad to be leaving their partners. “It was heartwarming to see how close the Japanese and American students have grown in barely a week” remarked Mr. Mikesh, one of the teachers involved in the exchange, The students parted ways, back to their normal life, to the final week of school before break. They had homework to do and sleep to catch up on. But that was when they realized that in three short months, it would be their turn to board the plane.