How I changed through the program – Akane Katayama
Hello. I’m Akane from Ibaraki, Japan and am a current scholar of the TOMODACHI-Microsoft iLEAP Social Innovation and Leadership Program.
I have now finished Phase 2 of the program, where I participated in leadership sesions and site visits, and I would like to share my two most important experiences from these past three weeks in Seattle.
Firstly, during this program, I had the opportunity to think critically and examine my deeper feelings, which uncovered one of my weaknesses. It was the lack of confidence. It may seem strange that the scholar selected by this program would feel such a thing. I was really worried about introducing my Change Project on the first day in Seattle, but now I am very excited to take action in Japan. So what changed? It was because in this program, I found the ability to share my feeling of uneasiness with others. It was a very difficult thing to show my weakness with others, but this program made a very safe atmosphere to share such a thing. Through sharing my feelings, I could receive feedback from others. At the same time, through verbalizing my emotions, I also understood what I felt deeply and how I dealt with my feelings.
Secondly, during my time in Seattle, I was able to participate in several activities that allowed me to see how it operated as a community. I am majoring in urban planning at my university, and I really wanted to see actual situation of community activity in the U.S. Fortunately, my host family was also interested in community activities, and so they introduced and took me to many places, like a community garden, a playground, showed me what tiny houses are and so on. Through this experience, I could think about social issues contextually in the U.S. and the way to solve the problems. My favorite thing about Seattle were the community gardens. I went to three different gardens managed by same organization. Though they were mostly similar, I was able to see differences that depended on each neighborhood’s situations. These were very precious experiences to me that I feel could not have happened unless I had witnessed it first hand in Seattle.
These experiences were made possible by the cooperation between various people, like scholars, Microsoft advisors, our mentors, my host family, and the iLEAP staff. I really appreciate the connections and partnerships with everyone, and would like to continue to cherish them from now on!
※This program consists of three phases, Phase 1 being a preparation period in Japan, Phase 2 is spending 3 weeks in Seattle, and Phase 3 being the 5-month action period back in Japan.