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LABO: The Ultimate Cultural Learning Experience
LABO is a 4-H joint "non-formal educational organization that provides an integrated program of youth development, language learning, and cultural exploration for Japanese children and their families."
Up until I was handed a pamphlet about an international exchange foundation in Japan, called LABO did I have a goal. At the ripe age of sixteen years, I was handed a peephole into my future career through an American Organization called 4-H. 4-H is an organization administered by the Cooperative Extension System of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to engage youth growth in the field of development. Being a fourth generation 4-H member, all programs sponsored by 4-H were known and had been completed through my eight years as a member. It was astonishing to hear about LABO for the first time in my geographic area. LABO is a 4-H joint "non-formal educational organization that provides an integrated program of youth development, language learning, and cultural exploration for Japanese children and their families." Within the LABO organization, four-week, eight-week, year-long and one year internship programs have been established for 4-H youth that wish to engage in a cultural and personal enrichment program which allow American youth to travel and stay in Japan. In addition, four-week summer and one-year home stay programs have been established for Japanese youth to live with American families to get the knack of the English language and engage in American culture.
Already speaking English and German, it was right up my alley to learn Japanese. Although slightly out of my comfort zone, I signed up for a four-week program at my ripe age of sixteen. That summer I disembarked from a plane in Japan and embarked on my future career. A host family with a minuscule amount of English proficiency plus with my fragmentary Japanese equaled many humorous events. Eating Japanese delicacies, touring popular travel interests, becoming a member of the Japanese lifestyle, and so on made a deep indent in my impression of the country along with creating a backbone for my future.
For those whom have cooperated in a four-week exchange program know first hand, there is not enough time to do everything that a tourist would like to be a participant. Four years later, my cravings for additional cultural interaction lead to a one-year internship in Japan. At this time, my internship involved leading and coordinating the exchange foundation along with the LABO staff in Japan. Throughout this internship, six home stays and multitudes of educational classes were taught by me (the American Ambassador) to the Japanese LABO members and families. This program requires a work-study visa through the Japanese government, therefore it was important that cultural and language classes were taken to engage in the study of the Japanese society. It was an essential element to international integration that could not be taught in a classroom setting.
These moments lead to my university education and future translation career choice. Being handed the LABO pamphlet that winter day was the turning point in my future as an American citizen but also an "American Diplomat" for international relations and international business ventures. Without the inspirational background of 4-H and LABO, my career might still be in trivial pursuit. For now, my head lays peacefully on a feathery pillow each night with dreams of returning to the foreign land I once called home. Becoming a LABO exchange student and intern could be the first step towards not only personal growth but also a lead to a future career choice. I suggest to those whom have a cloudy image of their future, digest a new culture and engage in a personal overhaul. Entering the unknown allures the person within.