SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Claudia Aljian, a senior at Union Catholic, went to Japan for 12 days with several students from all over the country as part of the People to People International Travel Programs. 

Aljian was recommended for the program by her older sister, Taylor, who went to Italy, Greece, and France through the People to People program.

"When my sister went on her trips, I remember wishing I could go also,'' said Aljian, who lives in South Plainfield. "So when I was contacted (by People to People) about the trip to Japan, I was very excited. I couldn't wait to go.''

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Aljian said the purpose of the trip is to strengthen the bond between the two countries. 

While she was in Japan, she visited a school and an animation studio, gained fascinating insight into the inner workings of Japanese government at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices, and experienced cultural immersion during a home-stay to learn about daily Japanese life. She also explored the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, climbed Mount Fuji, and did lots of sightseeing, which included a trip to the Tokyo Tower, the second highest structure in Japan.

"I learned that we aren't really that different,'' Aljian said. "There are so many ways that we are intertwined, but there are also lots of differences in the two cultures."

What was Aljian's favorite part of her trip?

"The home-stay was the best experience,'' said Aljian. "Getting to learn what life is like there was fascinating. We stayed with an older woman for five or six days, and she taught us how to make different soups, we picked vegetables, learned how to make sushi, and walked down the road to her son's house and got eggs from his chicken coup. The whole experience was amazing.''       

Aljian presented a souvenir from her trip (a Tokyo Tower keychain) to Union Catholic Principal Sister Percylee Hart, RSM.  This gesture of kindness came as no surprise; being kind to people is something that comes naturally to her. 

Aljian has displayed several Random Acts of Kindness during her days at UC, including opening doors in the morning for classmates when they arrive at school. 

"It's just the right thing to do,'' said Aljian, who is a member of the swim team and volunteers at the Blood Drives at UC. "If you want people to treat you with kindness, then you need to treat people with kindness. I was a Girl Scout all my life, and it's been ingrained into my head to always be kind to people.''