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They are teenagers who have experienced hardships well beyond their tender years would suggest. When a group of nearly 150 high school students came to the United States for a multi-week visit this month, they came as survivors of the fearsome earthquake and subsequent tsunami that ravaged much of Japan’s northeastern coast.
But when their trip brought them to Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington many could barely contain their smiles and amazement. At the factory, they saw the dramatic results of innovation, and for some students, a potential career path down the line.
The students hail from several high schools across Japan. Some lost family members, friends, and homes in the devastation of March 11, 2011. Hiroaki Shoji, an English teacher from Miyagi Suisan High School, explains that for many of his students, the hardships are still over. “They still live in temporary housing. It’s difficult to overcome that situation,” he says.
“I think this is a good trip. It will help them to overcome their bad experience.”
That’s why he feels this trip is so important. “I think this is a good trip,” he says simply. “It will help them to overcome their bad experience.”
Seventeen year old student Nobuyaki Nakagawa knows that he is among the lucky ones. He lives far enough inland that he and his family escaped the worst of the destruction. They only lost water and electricity for a few days.
But, he says that what he saw in the weeks that followed changed his life forever. “When I think about all the lives that were lost, it really makes me value my own life that much more,” he explains.
The visit to Boeing’s factory is just one of many stops planned along the United States’ west coast for the students. The Senior Consul from the Consulate of Japan in Seattle says she is confident that being able to tour places like Boeing will inspire the students, and show them some of the many possible career paths they could choose in the year ahead.
Senior Consul Tomoko Dodo says the students have a responsibility, too. Bring the kids here, and have them share their experience of the March 11th tragedy,” she explains. “They will tell the American people that although we are going through this difficulty, Japan is still reviving.”
Nakagawa says that now after touring Boeing’s factory, he can see his own path a little more clearly. As he looks out over the line of 787s in production he says, “I’m thinking about becoming an engineer in the future.”