Emma Russell, a recent graduate from Santa Catalina School and current freshman at Bates College, was an exemplar participant in the 2014 Spring Critical Issues Forum (CIF) Conference. Emma cited her experiences at CIF leading her to an increased interest in international peace and security. Not only did CIF generate and solidify her interest in politics, but Emma reported that it taught her essential skills that she was able to implement at school. She praised how her participation in the conference allowed her to strengthen her academic skills, such as learning how to conduct research, becoming comfortable with public speaking, and articulating her thoughts in a clear and precise manner.
However, for Emma, the highlight of her time with CIF was meeting Japanese students through the conference. She noted that this increased her capacity for cross-cultural communication and her appreciation for the unique aspects of Japanese culture. In particular, Emma said that she was struck how the students she met were shaped by the tragic events of August 1945, Atomic bombings, which lead to their interest in peace education. Although Japanese students had quite different approaches toward international peace and security, participating in CIF allowed Emma to understand the Japanese students’ viewpoint, in turn expanding her worldview.
She also highlighted her experience as a host sister to some of the students, which gave her a closer look at Japanese customs and language in a relaxed setting. Emma was introduced to a variety of new interests and activities within Japanese culture, including food, clothing, pop culture, and of course the relevant issues of international peace and security. She made lasting friendship, both with the students she hosted and with others who took part in CIF.
Emma stated that by the end of the conference, she knew she wanted to major in international relations in college, turning her involvement at CIF into a career in Washington, D.C. Her heightened knowledge of nonproliferation and disarmament in combination with her new interest in US-Japan relations, as well as her ability to communicate with people of other countries, has primed her for this new career path.
All in all, Emma stated that CIF opened doors that she never thought existed. She discovered that she had a passion for international peace and security and cross-cultural communication. She was able to identify a future career path in the field of politics, particularly focusing on nonproliferation and disarmament issues, and US-Japan relations. Her time conversing and living with people from Japan gave her a fresh perspective on world events. In fact, Emma stated that she gained so much insight on world politics, particularly relating to foreign policy, that she felt more ready to undertake her college experience. She encouraged everyone to take advantage of the valuable and prestigious opportunity that CIF presents, with the hope that it will change the way that future high school students think, as it did with her.