Youth gain a global perspective through 4-H Japanese Exchange

International 4-H exchange participants learn about themselves while experiencing Japanese culture.

The mission of Michigan 4-H Youth Development is to create informal educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world. Through 4-H international exchanges, youth are given opportunities to experience the world through a family in another culture and the chance to broaden their personal view of the world.

Seven Michigan youth experienced Japanese culture for one month during the summer 2012 States 4-H International Exchange with Japanese partner organization, Labo. These Michigan youth from Houghton, Mackinac, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Iosco and Livingston counties were among 48 youth from across the nation that participated in the exchange.

The Michigan youth stayed with Japanese host families and experienced daily life in Japan. They were able to visit their host brother or sister’s school, meet extended family members, go grocery shopping, enjoy home-cooked Japanese food and all the daily interactions of a Japanese family. They visited Labo Party meetings, the group setting where Japanese youth learn English through songs, plays and games. By being immersed in the culture for a month, they gained a perspective of a country from the inside which is missed from a tourist view of a country.

In a post survey, this year’s participants indicated they were better able to meet new people, form friendships and now know about a culture different from their own. The youth further explained what they gained from their experience:

  • “I feel more confident about myself, about traveling and being more independent. I grew as a person. I am more respectful of others and appreciate differences. I learned that I am open to trying new things.”
  • “During my stay in Japan I learned about many things – the people, the language and the culture.
  • “Going to Japan has taught me so much. I am grateful to have learned more about myself and how to enjoy and really interact in the world around me.”

Strong bonds are made between delegates and host families. These are relationships that can last a lifetime. One participant referred to her host family as another true family in Japan.

2013 will bring more opportunities for youth to travel on 4-H exchange programs. The deadline to apply for the outgoing Japanese Labo exchange is February 1. For more information, an application form along with deadlines and costs, visit Michigan 4-H International Exchanges.

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