Youth can build life skills through the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program

Build life skills and gain a new perspective of the world by living with a family in Japan for a month through the 4-H International Exchange Program. Participants develop an appreciation of differences and a better understanding of another culture.

Michigan youth can experience other countries through the states’ 4-H International Exchange program. Participants of an exchange learn to interact with people from another culture by living with a host family for a month and sharing their daily life. It gives participants an opportunity to develop a better understanding and appreciation of that culture.

Since 1972, more than 7,000 American teens have visited Japan through the program. In the summer of 2012, seven Michigan youth will travel to Japan for a month-long stay with a host family, July 11 to August 9. The exchange is open to all youth ages 12-18.

In 2003, 4-H International Programs commissioned a study to evaluate the impact of the 4-H Japanese Exchange program. Pre- and post-exchange surveys were given to 70 participants with 30 completing both of the surveys. Mary Arnold from Oregon State University authored the survey report.

The evaluation results showed that traveling to Japan helped youth build the following life skills: appreciating another culture, making friends with new people, understanding they have a lot in common with people from other cultures, sharing their experience with others, being comfortable in new situations, caring about people who are different than themselves, being responsible for themselves and being resourceful.

The experiences that made the greatest impact on their personal growth were: living with a host family, making new friends, living in a different culture, traveling in Japan, learning Japanese culture and customs from their host family, learning to be tolerant of differences, developing a better understanding of the value of global and international relations and learning to communicate with others from a different culture.

Participants reported a significant change in comfort levels in relating to people from other cultures and a significant increase in comfort in traveling to other countries, communicating in a language other than English, living with people they did not know and meeting people from another culture.

The confidence and life skills developed during an exchange trip to Japan can open a world of possibilities for future careers. The exposure to another language and culture, building tolerance and appreciation of differences, leads to global thinking and becoming an engaged citizen of the world.

More information on the variety of international travel and hosting opportunities through the Michigan 4-H Youth Exchange Program can be found at Michigan 4-H Youth Exchanges.

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