Teens overseas: Dylan Lonergan, Kadena H.S.

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 17, 2009

Year: 12th grade
Age: 17

School: Kadena H.S., Okinawa
Places lived: New York; Spokane, Wa; Colorado Springs, Colo.; York County, Va.; Okinawa, Japan
Favorite assignment: Okinawa
What is your favorite keepsake or souvenir? My key chain of trinkets
Plans for the future: Going to Columbia University to get a degree in law and eventually work in the government.

Since the age of three, I have lived in transit; my life has been a conglomeration of road trips, plane tickets and stamps on my passport. My various homes have blurred and faded as they have been left behind. My travels have taken me through every U.S. state (except Alaska), a small part of Canada, four states in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Guam, Tokyo, and Okinawa. I have lived as a traveler and have explored portions of the road map of the world. My most recent and most influential journey has been my family’s stay on Okinawa.

In 2005, my family received news that my father was being transferred to Kadena Air Base. The idea of Japan stuck in my head. I’d seen movies like “Lost in Translation” and seen videos filmed in Tokyo, but I had never seen anything from this seemingly remote little island. The idea of living on Okinawa was fantastic and even today, I pause and reflect upon the fact that I am actually living in Japan.

Living on Okinawa does have its downs: I can’t drive off base until I am 18, which severely limits my opportunities. And as a military dependent living abroad, I am held to a higher standard than someone living in America. In the eyes of a foreign national, I represent America, and therefore must be mindful of my behavior. Despite these restrictions, I have taken full advantage of this unique opportunity.

I have spent hours sitting on the sea wall and watching the waves lap against the jacks. Sometimes the best things are so simple — that’s what makes Okinawa so great, the simplicity.

Although it can be difficult trying to pick a stateside college while living overseas, I was able to visit two of my choices — Fordham University and Columbia University — while I was in New York City during my summer vacation. I’m headed to Columbia.

As my time on Okinawa comes to a close, I have been thinking about how thankful I am that my dad extended a year so I could graduate here, and how much I will miss living here. I’m positive that I will miss the exhilaration of diving off the Yomitan Docks, the uniqueness of left-hand side driving, and the serenity found at the sea wall.

I’m not sure where my life will take me or where I will end up, but I know that my mind will always wander back to Okinawa from time to time. I’m positive that my time on Okinawa will remain as an important chapter in my life. Though I may have spent the last three and half years being lulled by this small Pacific island, the experience has broadened my horizons and prepared me for what is to come.

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