Keene, New Hampshire, and Okinawa, Japan, are two completely different worlds. The culture, language, people and customs differ on many levels. For two Keene State College students, these differences could not be more well-known to them. KSC sophomore Skylor Stevens and first-year Tanner Schooley spent their high school years in Okinawa on a military base with their parents. More than four years later, they found themselves with an entire ocean between them and their old home.
“Before Japan I lived in North Carolina, North Dakota, Alaska and California. I spent the last nine years living in Japan,” said Schooley.
Stevens’s parents are teachers for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA). DODEA is the educational program set up by the Office of Secretary Defense for grades K-12 on military bases. They teach at different military bases around the world, which is why he was in Japan with them.
Both students’ fathers are also alumna of KSC, which is what inspired them both to come here after touring the campus their senior year of high school.
“Going to college in America is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Skylor.
This desire did not come as a shock to his parents either. “There was no question that when Skylor graduated, he was headed back to the U.S.,” said Jason Stevens. “I also lived overseas my entire life, graduating from high school in Okinawa, and living in the U.S. for the first time when I attended college. I know how it feels, and knew that Skylor would really enjoy it.”
After having spent most of their lives abroad, transitioning to life in the U.S. was not the easiest thing to do.
“Being in Okinawa felt like it was its own world…I’d say the hardest part was coming back after being gone out of the country and being culture shocked by the rudeness towards each other compared to in Japan…I’m not trying to bad mouth America, it’s just we aren’t the nicest people,” said Schooley.
Despite any difficulties with their journey back to the states, both students have fond memories of their time in Japan to look back on.
“We loved going to the tropical beaches all around Okinawa, we liked to cliff and bridge jump all over, we went to restaurants and really just made the best of our time on such a beautiful island,” said Schooley.
Both students are grateful for their experiences living in Okinawa.
“I feel very blessed for the opportunities I’ve had in my life to experience other cultures. I think it is vital for people to travel and experience what it’s like to be in other cultures, and to learn and grow from those experiences,” said Schooley.
“Living overseas has definitely given these kids a different perspective on the world…Skylor and Tanner’s environment here on Okinawa, they have to be open minded and tolerant because their school and community is extremely diverse,” said Jason.
Both students plan on returning to Japan in the summer.
“As long as my parents live there while I’m in college, I’ll be visiting every break I get,” said Schooley.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org