Scholarship program lets Penn Hills student explore Japan

This article was originally published in the Tribune-Review on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Click here to read the article on the Tribune-Review website. 

It didn’t feel too weird to Penn High School senior Marshall McArthur to bow after greeting people he’d never met while in Japan, but he’s pretty sure the gesture would never catch on in America.

“We can’t even get people to stand for the National Anthem,” Marshall said. “That respectful culture will always stick with me. They treat everybody with respect … I think that is very important. And it’s something you don’t experience as much in America.”

The act of etiquette was just one of the many experiences Marshall had during his month-long stay in Tokyo over the summer as part of a World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh scholarship program.

Marshall, 17, was one of eight applicants who traveled abroad through the program and one of up to 75 students in the area who applied.

The 4.5 GPA student and varsity basketball player was nominated by his Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher during his junior year.

Since 2004, Pittsburgh’s WAC has selected students who otherwise would likely never have the chance to “travel abroad and participate in a cross-cultural, life-enhancing experience,” according to a WAC spokeswoman Erica Tony.

Marshall said he grew up watching anime, a Japanese term for “animation.”

“That’s when I understood that (Japanese people) were different in ways that they think. And when I played video games in middle school, I started looking more into their side of things, like technology they’re developing,” Marshall said.

Through high school, Marshall has taken courses such as world history, language and composition and computer programming that supported his intrigue with the country’s culture and technology advancements.

When Marshall’s teacher recommended he apply for WAC’s travel abroad program, his first choice was the island country.

“I’ve learned a lot about their culture and what led them to where they are today,” he said.

While there, he practiced the Japanese spoken and written language through classes; explored Tokyo; visited Kyoto’s temples, markets and shrines; practiced Zen meditation; tried sushi and ramen at local joints; and learned how to cook traditional dishes from his host family.

Coming from a biracial family, Marshall has always been encouraged to learn about new cultures, said his mother, Heather McArthur.

“He’s intrigued with all cultures and loves to travel – it’s just part of who he is,” she said.

 | WednesdayAug. 8, 2018, 1:30 p.m.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting.