Samantha Holmes (Duke Ambassador, India '15)

 have such clear memories from my Phillips Ambassador experience in 2015. The process of asking for recommendations, editing essays and preparing for interviews remains vivid in my mind. Receiving acceptance to the program made me feel so proud and excited to be a member of such a kind, ambitious and globally minded group of people. Within the walls of the Global Education Center, I found a community of brilliant people who shared an enthusiasm for another part of the world. Tales of Thailand, stories about Singapore and insights on Indonesia filled classroom discussions. These perspectives from fellow Ambassadors made me want to learn more about Asia beyond my own experience in India. Ever since then, I have pursued opportunities to gain this deeper understanding about the immensely diverse continent.

In late 2017, I applied to a conference called the International Development Youth Forum (IDYF). This event explores ideas surrounding development, culture and international cooperation. As a Political Economy student, I jumped at the chance to learn more about these areas. Japan hosts IDYF each year, which further enhanced my interest. The only drawback was the level of competitiveness: last year IDYF received over 3,000 applications for 40 slots. Those numbers really intimidated me. However, I used the confidence I gained from being a member of my Ambassador cohort and decided to apply anyway. I was accepted.

Fast forward three months to my first day in Tokyo. It was such a new environment. Everywhere I looked I saw a sense of intentionality, organization, vibrancy and community. People on public transportation were so respectful of each other’s personal space (except for rush hour; that was completely the opposite.) People working in restaurants and cabs emphasized a universal courtesy that reminded me of the importance of being polite and continually conscious of how I interacted with others. Along with the other delegates at IDYF, I had the opportunity to engage with current events while exploring a gorgeous global city. I remember discussing international relations while walking through Yoyogi park. Ramen restaurants became the backdrop for major debates on ethics and globalization. We even analyzed the merits and drawbacks of technology in between rounds of Karaoke.

After over a week of researching and bonding, we had the opportunity to present our findings to a panel of local non profit leaders. My team and I spoke about how technology can add efficiencies in the Japanese service industry. In turn, this could help to usher in a healthier work/life balance nationwide. In particular, we focused on the role of automation in reducing labor for a lot of people. We received positive feedback and walked away with praise and encouragement from some phenomenal mentors. More importantly, I left Japan with new knowledge, fulfilling friendships, and enough memories to last for years. Or at least to last long enough until my next trip to Asia!