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How to Visit Japan before you Turn 20!

You don’t need to be rich. I definitely wasn't.

There is a picture of a passport and a book about Japan, next to pictures of a black high school graduate and a woman in kimono.
High School Photos, Graduation, Japan

So, how did I still visit Japan twice before turning 20 years old?

Well, the first time, I was listening.

Seriously, my friends in school class til this day swear they didn’t hear the bulletin that took me overseas. But in first period, there was an announcement in the morning bulletin for a Sister Cities exchange application. I went and picked it up at lunch. Two other girls from my school were also listening, because after the interviews we were picked as part of the Sister Cities delegation to Iwai City, Japan. The fourth girl was from the school across town. The Sister Cities organization subsidized our travel and my church raised the rest of the money for me. My parents could not afford it. I still appreciate everyone's support in opening up the world to me.

So check your local city’s international exchanges and get involved even if they aren’t doing student exchanges. Networking isn’t something poor kids actively learn about, so I am here to advise you to do it. It’s SUPER important.


The second time, I worked hard but I also asked for help.


In university, I decided I wanted a study abroad experience after I learned the internship I wanted didn’t pay any money. I applied for and a received a Gilman Scholarship that helped subsidize my study in the IES Tokyo Program. And since the program cost was less than my actual school’s tuition, it helped me save money on student loans. When I arrived in Japan, I received a JASSO need-based scholarship. So, don’t be afraid to let people around know that you need help. The JASSO scholarship allowed me to pay for day-to-day expenses so I could focus on my studies.

So basically look for opportunities around you and ask for help.


Both are much easier with the internet.

I’ll link the Sister Cities main page, IES Abroad, and JASSO if you are interested in any of these organizations.

Also, for you high students, education abroad is so much cheaper than studying in the US. So checking institutions overseas and overseas scholarship programs is my main actual advice.