In 6th grade, Alexis Parker discovered her love for Japan after listening to the eclectic beats of the country’s top J-pop musicians. Now a sophomore in Butler Tech’s Family and Consumer Science program at Lakota West High School, Parker’s dream of experiencing Japan in person has been made a reality after winning an $11,000 scholarship through the 2018 FCCLA Japanese Exchange Scholarship program.
“This means everything to me,” said an excited Parker. “I never thought an opportunity like this to participate in an exchange program would be possible. It’s an expensive trip and I don’t have the financial ability to pay for something like this, so being able to receive this scholarship really helps me pursue my dream to travel.”
The scholarship is offered through the Youth for Understanding and funded by the Kikkoman Corporation. Hundreds of FCCLA students spanning the country apply for this opportunity, but only 14 are chosen to spend six to eight weeks among Japan’s society.
While abroad, students live the exciting life immersed in many of Japan’s notable and breathtaking experiences, including traditional ceremonies, visiting historical temples, trying new dishes, to standing at the base of Mt. Fuji.
“I’m really interested to see what it’s like to eat a real bowl of ramen. They have a lot of dishes that involve noodles. I feel Japan has this incredible representation of their food, so I’m really wanting to see all the things I might not be able to experience here.”
The scholarship’s application was an intense process that required Parker to give full, in-depth explanations covering how she would adapt to cultural changes to her hobbies. She relied on the trusted guidance of her family and teachers to help develop essays clearly communicating her thoughts.
“When she approached me with the application I immediately said, “Let’s do it!”. She’s spent hours on revisions and working on her essays. This is such a well-deserved opportunity for her,” explained Ann Roberts, Family and Consumer Science Instructor and Parker’s teacher.
“I’m excited to go to high school and interact with the students there. Another thing I’m looking forward to is meeting my host family. I’m also hoping I get host siblings because it’ll be great to learn about Japan from a perspective that’s around my age.”
Parker leaves for her long-awaited trip in June. She’s already learned a great deal of Japan’s language and has a strong comprehension of it.
“I downloaded an app to help me learn how to speak Japanese a few years ago. Now, I’m pretty good at reading it, but still working to understand it better when I hear it spoken. I’m really looking forward to when I can speak it with my host family and siblings.”