2019 Michigan 4-H inbound welcome and matching ceremony

Thirty-three international guests arrived for a month-long homestay with families throughout Michigan.

Japan, Korea, & Taiwan group photo
International delegates from Japan, Korea and Taiwan pose for a group photo. Photo by D'Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

On July 25, 2019, 33 international guests arrived at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. These guests are participating in a one-month exchange through States’ 4-H International Exchange Program and Michigan State University Extension’s  4-H International Exchange Program. They will be staying with families throughout Michigan and learning about American daily life.

Once the Michigan 4-H international guests arrived, they participated in an orientation to learn more about Michigan and our culture. We shared with them how to greet their host family at the matching ceremony with a handshake, high five, fist bump or hug. These greetings may be very different from their own country. It is good for them to practice and be ready for their American host family to want to hug them when they meet for the first time.

After their orientation, we prepared them for the next day prior to meeting their host family. The group of 33 volunteered with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks by cleaning up overgrown bushes and branches at the Fourth Street Park. The youth learned how to use tree clippers and trimmers. This experience might be a first for many of the international guests who mostly live in large cities in apartment buildings.

Community service
Community service project at Fourth Street Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo by D'Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

After volunteering, our group returned to Calvin University to learn about American yard games. The youth learned how to play corn hole, use a frisbee, play catch with an American football, use a jump rope, use sidewalk chalk and swim at Calvin’s indoor pool. This is a great way to keep the youth moving and learning about each other to acclimate them to the time change.

Our evening was complete with a WhiteCaps baseball game at Fifth Third Ballpark. This was exciting for all of them, and four youth were able to play hoop ball on the field between first and second innings. We did have a few falling asleep, but for the most part it was a successful day filled with their first Michigan experiences.

On Saturday, July 27, the delegates met their host families. This is the “matching ceremony.” After opening remarks and safety reminders for all host families were given, each delegation presented a skit, song or dance for the families and introduced themselves. Next, MSU Extension intern Maggie Nagle, with a chaperone, called up each family and delegate to greet each other and take a family photo. The family then took their delegate back to their seat with them.

Cockroft welcome photo
The Cockroft family welcome photo. Photo by D'Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

On Aug. 21, all the families will return the delegates back to Calvin University for their return flight home on Aug. 22. During the return, we’ll share a photo slide show of all the photos sent to Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program staff documenting all the fun the delegates had while in Michigan. Families complete evaluations and say their “see you later.” This is a time of many tears for families and delegates. In only one short month, these relationships become very strong and are lifelong.

A few comments from host families so far:

  • “We are having a blast with our Korean son. This has been such an extraordinary experience for our whole family!”
  • “I love this kid! So respectful and sweet! My American boys seem so rude and loud suddenly.”
  • “Our Korean daughter is doing great and we are really enjoying having her.”
  • “Our Korean son is smart, kind, polite, responsible and a hard-working young man.”
  • “Our Japanese daughter has enjoyed golf, archery, softball, boating, tubing, fishing, blueberry picking and Mackinac Island. She is really shy so she doesn’t talk much, but she seems to be having a good time.”

4-H grows lifelong relationships. If you would like to learn more, visit the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program website. To learn more about hosting an international exchange student, contact D’Ann Rohrer at drohrer@msu.edu or 231-845-3361.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs read our 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 can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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