Share your busyness with an international exchange student this summer

Explore your intercultural awareness for a month when you become a host family as part of the Japan Summer Inbound Exchange.

Ashley sisters with their Japanese sister, Tomoko; sisters forever with an ocean between. Photo courtesy of Leona Ashley.

Ashley sisters with their Japanese sister, Tomoko; sisters forever with an ocean between. Photo courtesy of Leona Ashley.

Michigan State University Extension’s Japan Summer Inbound Exchange is recruiting Michigan families to welcome Japanese youth ages 12-16 for one month this summer, July 23–Aug. 18, 2017. The Japanese LABO Program and Michigan 4-H Exchange Program is celebrating its 44th year in partnership. Youth will be staying with families all over Michigan from Baraga County in the Upper Peninsula to Oakland and Cass counties and everywhere in between.

We have families hosting in 41 counties across Michigan. Host families are still needed to host youth and chaperones arriving in July. Those interested in hosting can visit the States’ 4-H International Exchange website to complete an application.

When thinking about how the Japan Summer Inbound Exchange program differs from other international exchange programs, it truly has some unique characteristics.

  • 4-H/LABO program is only a one-month hosting commitment, where most other programs are a six- to 10-month commitment.
  • The host family must have a child the same gender and within three years of the delegate’s age; other programs have no child requirements.
  • Only specific families can host for a limited timeframe due to children growing up and moving out of the house.
  • The age of the delegates is 12-16 years old, which is younger than other programs.
  • Due to the age of these delegates, their expectations are different. The exchange student is only looking for an American youth to play with and the experience of living with an American family to experience American culture. Delegates also are willing to share their culture through preparing a Japanese meal, gifts, games and photos.
  • This program also includes the opportunity for American host siblings to travel to Japan the following summer and stay with the Japanese delegate they hosted the prior year. This is not a requirement, but on the Japanese delegates application it states whether they are available to host next year.

The following are some reflective comments from past host families and match siblings:

  • “This program appealed to my family due to how short the commitment is and it is during the summer.”
  • “The program offered my family a way to engage in another culture instead of just watching other cultures on television.”
  • “During the experience, there was laughter, tears and frustration, especially when trying to understand someone who does not speak your language fluently. But the laughter outweighs the other emotions and the experience gave my family lifelong relationships.”
  • “I enjoyed having a sister for a month since I only have three brothers.”
  • “I had someone to play with who was interested in the same things I enjoy.”
  • “I look forward to visiting her in Japan in 2018.”
  • “It is amazing how different your daily life is when you experience it with someone who it is all new to. Seeing our culture through our Japanese daughter’s eyes helped us to see things through a different lens.”

Intercultural awareness is the awareness of one’s own culture; the other is the awareness of another culture. It is the ability of standing back from our own point and becoming aware of not only our own cultural values, beliefs and perceptions, but also those of other cultures.

There is no better way to gain intercultural awareness than by living with a family immersed in a new culture. Encourage your child to experience another culture; it will open their eyes and mind to endless possibilities, build confidence and awareness of the world around them.

Be a family who is willing to share your busy life with an eager Japanese delegate just waiting to hear you will host them this summer. You never know how strong those relationships will be to give your child the courage to travel abroad the following summer.

4-H grows strong international friendships. If you would like to learn more about international exchange programs in Michigan, visit Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs or contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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