Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program promotes cultural competency
Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program offers multiple values of hosting Japanese youth and adult delegates in homestay program.
In 1972, 179 Japanese youth traveled from Japan to stay with 4-H host families in the United States. Over the subsequent 40 years, 35,130 Japanese delegates have participated in the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program, learning about the cultures, customs and lifestyles of Americans by living with host families through a home-stay program. International youth exchange programs promote cross-cultural understanding through the development of personal relationships between members of different countries and cultures.
United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, believes that international exchange programs have a significant impact on both the international youth and their American host families.
“Families who welcome these exchange students into their homes and hearts not only enrich the life of an exceptional young person, they help build people-to-people connections that span the globe and last a lifetime. The goodwill, generosity and mutual understanding fostered through exchange programs are critical to meeting the challenges of today’s world. Such citizen diplomacy may start with one visiting student and his or her host family, but it ripples throughout communities in the United States and abroad,” explained Clinton.
An evaluation study conducted by the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program in 2011 demonstrated the impact of the international exchange program on host families. The evaluation results indicate that American host siblings increased their skills in the area of cultural competency by gaining knowledge about another culture, increasing their understanding of one’s connection to the wider world, building relationships with people from around the world and helping someone from another country adjust to American culture. Host siblings also increased a variety of other life skills including sharing, accepting differences, communication, nurturing relationships, self-esteem, caring, empathy, cooperation, character, social skills and self‑responsibility.
On July 19, 2012, 52 youth and four adult chaperons from Japan will arrive in Michigan to stay with host families for four weeks. Michigan 4-H is looking for host families that represent the broad diversity of Michigan families, including families from rural and urban communities, single-parent families and families from all religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Families with same-sex parents are encouraged to apply, as well as families that include members who experience disabilities.
Host families are not required to plan any special trips or activities for their delegate, although many families choose to show their delegate local landmarks and attractions. Host families are expected to welcome delegates into their families and treat them just like other family members. Families hosting youth delegates must complete an application, undergo a background search and have a child of the same gender and similar age as the delegate. Families without children may choose to host an adult chaperon delegate.