Youth gain global citizen skills through 4-H exchange cultural immersion experience

Michigan 4-H provides opportunities for youth to travel to Argentina, Costa Rica, Japan, Korea, Norway and Taiwan!

Exchange student with Japan friends
Everett Howell with his host family in Japan. Photo submitted by Everett Howell.

Michigan youth can build global citizenship skills through the Michigan 4-H exchange outbound opportunities offered during the summer. Michigan 4-H provides opportunities for youth to travel to Argentina, Costa Rica, Japan, Korea, Norway and Taiwan through the States’ 4-H International Exchange program. These experiences are a cultural immersion experience living with a host family for one month. Participants experience the daily life of an international family providing a richer experience than traveling as a tourist. Applications are accepted from October 1 – December 15 each year.

The Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development vision for global and cultural education is having young people develop an understanding of themselves and other people; a sense of connection with, respect for and responsibility to the world; and an ability to serve and lead with wisdom, care and humility. The Michigan 4-H Backpack to Adventure: Youth Leaders in a Global World curriculum identifies cultural competence as one of five competencies youth need to be a youth global leader. This competency includes learning to work and live comfortably with people from diverse cultures, knowing about and appreciating the culture of other people, and valuing multiple points of view.

A young American girl with her Japanese friend making a heart with their hands.
Jillian Richards (left) on her 2023 Outbound eight-week trip to Japan

In 2023, five Michigan 4-H’ers traveled abroad and shared some quotes about their experiences. Jillian Richards, a Macomb County youth who took part in Michigan’s eight-week Nihongo Japan program shared: "I had so much fun on this trip to Japan! I got to reconnect with my sister I hosted in 2019. I had a wonderful time with her family and was given so many opportunities to try new things and experience their culture."

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Everett Howell, 2023 outbound delegate for four-week Japan trip.

Everett Howell of Leelanau County, who took part in the Japan four-week program said, "The best advice I have for anyone traveling is simple in words but complicated in act, go with the flow." He added, "Through the 4-H and LABO exchange program, I was able to experience new cultures, people and create memories I will cherish forever."

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Grace Gardner, 2023 outbound delegate for four-week South Korea trip

Grace Gardner of Houghton County, a South Korea four-week program participant said, “Through this program I was able to learn more about Korean culture and develop my interpersonal skills.” Grace wrote an essay that was shared across the globe by States’ 4-H International and a video. 

Lily and Daniel hold the States' 4-H flag at the airport.
2023 Japan four-week outbound delegates Lily Marshall and Daniel (Dann) Collins.

Lily Marshall of Jackson County, who also attended the four-week Japan program said, "This program taught me so much about Japanese culture but at the same time, gave me lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever. I still enjoy communicating with the people I met and called my family. We continue to exchange pictures back and forth to continue the cultural exploration."

Daniel (Dann) Collins of St. Joseph County, another four-week Japan delegate, was asked; “What, if anything, did you learn about your OWN culture as a result of your outbound exchange?” He responded, “I learned that there are many minor parts of my own culture that I had never really thought about until they were missing. For example, walking on the right side of a sidewalk, eating with your mouth closed and keeping eye contact when talking.”

Dann was also asked to share one highlight during the outbound exchange and he said it was hiking in the mountains near Miyazaki.

Everett Howell also wrote an essay that was shared across the globe by States’ 4-H International and a video.  In the closing paragraph of Everett’s essay he said, “I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in this program or has any questions to seek out your local 4-H program coordinator and speak to them about attending. There are many more opportunities than just four weeks in Japan. There are also eight-week programs and other countries available. The staff are amazing, as are the host families. Due to this program, I feel as if I have grown up a little and become a little more confident. I have grown as a person and would love to see others embark on their own adventures that they will never forget.”

States' 4-H International Exchange Program, located in Seattle, Washington, is the organization Michigan 4-H works with to manage the exchange. The dates for the four-week trips vary each year but are typically mid-July to mid-August. The eight-week trip, including an intensive language program, typically runs from mid-June to mid-August. For official dates and other information on these amazing exchange opportunities, visit the 4-H International Exchange Program website.

Interested in the 2024 Michigan 4-H Outbound program? Want to have an amazing experience like Everett Howell said he had? The 2024 States' 4-H Outbound Program application deadline is December 15, 2023, at 11:59 PM PST (Midnight).  For Michigan 4-H processing of applications, youth need to apply by December 8!

Interested in joining us and want to know more? Want to see the videos that Grace and Everett created?  Check them out on the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs Facebook page and the States 4-H International Exchange Programs Facebook page.

For more information:

Contact Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs Coordinator Jan Brinn at  or co-coordinator John Wurm at

You can also contact your local MSU Extension office.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

International exchange is a chance to build friendships and skills that last a lifetime!

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