Archives for category: summer program

“All great things must come to an end.”

This quote sucks. Seriously. Who ever wants this to be true?

But unfortunately, it is reality, and it happens to all of us. And it happened to me this month.

This year marks the end of my work with High School Diplomats (aka HSD or “the Japan program” as many of you are probably more familiar with). Although it is somewhat a relief to not have people look at me like I have 3 heads when I try to explain to them what I do, or to have some friends back home who are probably still confused about what I’ve been doing these past eight years, it is and was the furthest thing from easy for me to say good-bye. My involvement in this amazing program… this “great thing” that has become a part of who I am and that has introduced me to the most amazing people, has finally come to an end.

And just like the quote, it sucked.

It sucked real bad.

What was the worst part? Hmm.. let’s see. Leaving my staff, who has become family to me and has supported me through the thick and thin. But there’s also the part about no longer getting the chance to immerse myself in another culture, and help to build relationships between two different countries (well at least not as often :)). Oh yea, andddd the part about no longer being a counselor for kids, and getting to witness them experience this life-changing program. There’s also the fact that I’ll be leaving a program that has undoubtedly made me a more worldly, compassionate, and all around better person. But really, the worst part is this feeling of emptiness in my stomach, like a part of me has left.

Dramatic? Maybe. Honest? Absolutely.

But through these few days of being removed from the program, I’ve realized a few things. First, that this hollow feeling is a result of putting 100% of myself into the program. It confirms how much the program has really meant to me, and that joining the program was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Second, I’ve realized that even though my “time” with HSD is over, that the memories, the lessons, and the friendships will forever be a part of me. And I for one am looking forward to seeing how the past eight years will shape my future, and always being reminded of all the great times as I go. And lastly, I’ve realized that feeling like this is vital for moving forward and taking the next step. It is important that in life, we have these up and down moments, to force us to sit back and realize how good we really have it. It makes you appreciative of what you’ve been given, what you’ve earned, and what you’ve learned along the way. Everything happens for a reason, and every experience prepares you for the next one.

I’m sad to leave HSD, but I’m thankful for the opportunities and the memories it has given me. I can’t imagine where my life would be, or the type of person I would be, if it wasn’t for this program, but I am more grateful for all the tools it has provided me with as I look onward.

It’s the end of a personal era, but it’s the start of a new beginning. All great things must come to an end, so even greater things can come of them. Not as fluid as the first quote, but it works for me.

So thank you to my HSD staff both in the states and in Japan, for being a part of my life and helping to shape my next adventure. I couldn’t have done this without you.


This video is the 3rd and final video in the series of HSD promotional videos. It is geared more towards parents and teachers, rather than students. In this video, the staff members reveal what HSD really means to them, and why they find themselves coming back to the program every year. I’ll go ahead and let the video tell the rest.

And thank you in advance for watching these videos. Your support means the world to me!

“HSD sticks with you forever, and the family that you get, the values that you learn from that family stay with you forever.” -Max Griffith, HSD 2005 student



High School Diplomats** is a program very near and dear to my heart. I was a student in the program back in 2005, and ever since then I’ve worked as a staff member. The program has sent me to Japan twice, and has introduced me to the most amazing and talented group of individuals who have become my second family. One of the most difficult parts about being so invested in this type of program, is that it is incredibly difficult to explain exactly how this experience has impacted me. But on the other hand, for that same reason is why HSD is so unique. You have to experience it yourself to really understand what it’s all about.

After seven summers with the program, I’ve learned a lot, not only about another country and another culture, but also about myself. And after seven summers, I still struggle to find the words to describe my appreciation for the program and all that it’s given me.

But despite the difficulty, HSD is too important to go unnoticed and to not spread the word to everyone I know. So a few weeks ago, I interviewed a few former and current staff members. I asked them a series of questions mainly about how they got involved in the program, how they think HSD is unlike any other summer program, and why they think it’s important for other’s to experience. After about 120 minutes of solid footage, I narrowed it down to about 11 minutes, split into 3 videos. I interspersed some footage from the program this past summer to add to the experience and give you a taste of what life at Princeton in July is like.

The staff members spoke from the heart, and none of this was rehearsed. What you see is what you get, and hopefully by hearing them talk you can see and maybe even feel the passion they have for the program.

Here are two of the three videos. I hope you can take a little break in your day to listen to these guys talk about a program that has played a big role in who I am today.


“It is that first year when you do HSD as a student, that is one of the most eye-opening experiences any high school student can have anywhere.” -Rachel Easter, HSD 2004 student


“This is just a small stepping stone for many people’s lives, but it’s the strongest foundation for me that I’ve ever had in my life.” -Machel Ross, HSD 2008 student


**High School Diplomats is a cultural exchange program between Japanese and American high school students that takes place at Princeton University. If you know me, it’s the “Japan program” that I’ve been talking about for the past 7 years. If you don’t know me, it’s a great opportunity for all sophomore and junior HS students, and you should go to to learn more about it!