Testimonial By Lee Knowlton - Tacki kid 2005

   In everyone's life there are certain events, people, or places that leave a lasting impression.  For some, these impressions are the impetus for a fundamental shift in the person's view of life.  It definitely was in my case.  
  During the summer between my third and fourth years of high school, I had the opportunity to take part in the San Bernardino-Tachikawa Sister City Exchange Program.  With this program I would go to Tachikawa for a month and stay with a host family, do all sorts of touring, and then come back to San Bernardino, where my host sibling would stay for a month.  
  Needless to say it sounded like great fun and before leaving my expectations were cautiously high.  Surprisingly, it blew all of my expectations out of the water.  I could fill hundreds of pages chronicling the experiences I had during that summer, but to say it briefly, my summer in Tachikawa, my Japanese host family and friends, and the culture of Japan as a whole had left its mark on me.
  As the summer ended, I said goodbye to my host brother as he left back for the place I couldn't forget.  Frankly, I felt more homesick returning to California than during my time in Japan.  I knew that somehow, someway, I needed to visit again.  The best I could come up with at this time, however, was perhaps studying abroad for a year in college.  While this sounded like a nice idea, I could feel that it wouldn't be quite enough to quench my thirst for a longer, more comprehensive visit.  
  An opportunity finally presented itself when I was haphazardly searching for colleges in Japan.  I discovered International Christian University, which offered a program for students who couldn't speak Japanese that would bring them up to the university level.  This university also seemed to have a very high quality of education in normal programs.  Even better, I found out that it wasn't too far from Tachikawa, and I thought perhaps maybe I would be able to stay with my host family again.  
  Everything after that seemed to fall into place.  I was accepted to the university, given a generous scholarship, and my host family graciously decided to let me stay at their house.  At the end of July 2007, I once again left for Japan.  I haven't looked back since.  
  Looking back at all of the things that have happened in my life, there have been a lot of defining moments that changed my perception of the world around me and my goals and dreams for the future.  However, out of these many moments, my trip with the Tachikawa-San Bernardino program and the people that I met during that trip stands out as one of the most radical, life-changing moments I have ever experienced.  It has opened my eyes to the world and given me a chance that would never have been possible otherwise. 

Lee Knowlton