Michigan students participating in the 2016 Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange recently returned from their trip to Japan. As a part of the program, Michigan high school students traveled to Japan to live with a Japanese high school student and their family. This allowed American students to learn first-hand what high school life is like in Japan, expanding their horizons and helping them develop as truly global citizens.
The exchange provided Michigan students the opportunity to experience school in a foreign culture. They participated in math, science, history, and calligraphy classes with their host siblings. The Japanese schools were ecstatic to welcome the Michigan students into their daily routines, inviting many to speak before the student body. Students were even able to participate in their schools’ cultural and sports festivals, giving them the chance to work closely with Japanese high school students in a more personal and fun environment. Many students reported that their fellow Japanese classmates often tried to speak in English to them, and they in turn tried to respond in Japanese, allowing for both sides to develop their language skills.
Life with their host families proved even more exciting! The families welcomed the Michigan students happily and prepared a variety of surprises for them. Together with their host families, they were able to visit local temples and shrines, tour Hikone Castle, participate in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, and more. Students visited various famous cities in and around Shiga Prefecture, including Otsu, Hikone, Nara, and Kyoto. Through these adventures, the students and their families swiftly befriended each other. Many of the Michigan students and their host siblings became quick friends, creating more excitement as they plan to reunite later this summer when the Japanese students come to the United States for their portion of the exchange.
At the end of their journey, both the Michigan students and their host families came together for a farewell gathering. Despite only lasting a few weeks, the bonds the students developed with their Japanese hosts was visible, as many tears were shed at the event. However, with the Michigan students’ host siblings coming soon for the next chapter of the exchange program, there was also much excitement in the room. Though they may have left Japan for now, the bonds the Michigan students formed with their host families will last forever.
In the next part of the Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange, the Japanese host siblings will come to Michigan in late August to live with their own American host families! We look forward to the students reuniting and further developing their life-long ties. If you would like to learn more about the program, please visit the Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange web page.