Japanese chaperone shares her perspective of international exchange experience

Thoughts from a Japanese chaperone participating in Michigan 4-H’s month-long international exchange program.

Host Maggie Nagle (left) and Japanese chaperone Mai (right) at the Ludington Marina.
Host Maggie Nagle (left) and Japanese chaperone Mai (right) at the Ludington Marina.

Michigan’s 4-H International Exchange Program welcomed 34 Japanese delegates and 13 Korean delegates to our state on July 22, 2017. Michigan 4-H has hosted Japanese delegates since 1974 through States’ 4-H International Exchange Program in partnership with the LABO organization in Japan. This is the first year, however, for Michigan to host the month-long delegation from Korea in partnership with Korea 4-H.

Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program is excited to offer this opportunity to families all over the state. Enjoy the conversation between Maggie Nagle, MSU Extension international exchange intern, and her chaperone, Mai, from Japan as they discuss the programs impact.

Maggie: What is it like to wait to hear from your host family?

Mai: I was very nervous but excited to hear from my host. I saw pictures of my host and read about every member of the family. I thought that they looked good and I saw things they liked to do that I also like to do. They liked to read and swim in Lake Michigan. I love to read and I was very excited to swim in Lake Michigan.

Maggie: What are some things you hope to do while in the United States?               

Mai: I want to speak English a lot to help improve my speaking and listening skills. I will try everything that I can, eat a lot of American food and enjoy all my homestay every day. So far, I have eaten a lot of American food like pizza, ice cream and French dip. It is all so yummy! My favorite would be ice cream, but it is very hard to choose only one food. I love the one with a lot of chocolate. I also hope to speak more to add to the family conversation and swim more in Lake Michigan.

Maggie: Before you arrived in the United States, how did you prepare for your homestay?

Mai: I took a lesson of the Japanese Tea Ceremony so I could show my host some culture from Japan. I made an album of photos to share my family and friends with my host. I bought many souvenirs to give as gifts for people who I met. I talked with some friends who have also traveled to the United States as a college leader like me. They gave me some advice on what to expect during my homestay. They told me to speak a lot with my host and support the LABO kids. They advised me to talk to many people and enjoy conversation with many American people. My mother and other LABO kids’ mothers made many souvenirs to give as gifts to new friends in the United States. They made many origami gifts; it took over a month to finish all of them. There was a lot of preparation to get ready for the homestay in the United States.

Mai at the beachMaggie: Who decided for you to come on this trip to the United States?

Mai: I did. I wanted to study abroad or a go to a short-time homestay. It would cost a lot of money to study abroad, so I chose the homestay. I have a part time job in Japan and I paid to come on this trip—my parents also helped pay. I also went to Canada when I was a junior high school student, which my family decided I go. My grandmother had traveled as a LABO chaperone to the United States and told me that when I was a junior high school student, I would travel to the United States or Canada. I decided to go to Canada. It was a very enjoyable time. My grandmother left money for me to use to travel to Canada though LABO.

Maggie: How will you use this experience when you are back in Japan?

Mai: I attend school at Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan. It is the biggest university in Japan. I take the train from my home to my university every day, which takes me 2 hours. This experience will help me with my studies and I hope it will be easier for me to study English. I think my listening and speaking will be better when I return home. I will take my experience to my LABO kids and share with them some goodies from my homestay. I hope they will also travel to the United States for a homestay program. I will study English harder when I come back to Japan.

Maggie: How are you feeling about your homestay so far?

Mai: I’m doing really well in America now. I need to speak more English, but I hope to be better. I think American people are different. They are very kind compared to Japanese people. Everyone greets someone they see, but in Japan, Japanese keep to themselves and look down. Americans wave to everybody and there are many smiles from people I do not even know. It makes me very happy. I am not homesick now; I enjoy my homestay so much.

Maggie: As a chaperone, usually you would have two host families. Would you like having two host families, or would one host family be better?

Mai: I only have one host this summer. I think it would be better to stay with only one host family during the homestay. I can make a connection and a relationship with the one host. I really enjoy my host and like to only have one.

Maggie: What are things you are missing from Japan?

Mai: I only miss Japan a little bit. I miss my friends, family and speaking Japanese, but most of all Japanese food. My favorite food is sushi. I love to eat all kids of sushi. I really want to eat Yakaniku now. It is the best food at a restaurant. It is any kind of meat on the barbeque with some good sauce. They cook your food at the table and you can see it. I hope to eat Yakaniku soon. I like to cook for my host and eat Japanese food. This can help me not be homesick.

Intercultural awareness is being mindful of one’s own culture; the other is the awareness of another culture. 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 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 make them aware of the world around them.

4-H grows strong international friendships. If you would like to learn more about international exchange programs in Michigan, visit Michigan State University Extension’s International Exchange Programs or contact D’Ann Rohrer, state coordinator, leadership and civic engagement team member, at drohrer@anr.msu.edu.

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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