Yesterday, we said goodbye to our third exchange student. Nana was visiting us from Shimizu, Japan, over our spring break, along with two other students and a chaperone. Her visit was in conjunction with a program in our community called the Chelsea-Shimizu Sister Cities exchange program. Last June, my daughter traveled to Shimizu and visited Hiroshima and Sapporo to experience world history, and Japanese culture and community.
Our week was filled with local adventure, including the tradition of painting our town rock, disc golf at Hudson Mills metro park in Dexter and touring the Big House at the University of Michigan. Hosting an exchange student for a week was easy-breezy and so much fun! We hosted a student from the Netherlands for a full school year and a student from Peru for five months.
What I’ve learned from these cultural connections is how brave the teenagers are to travel to a foreign country and immerse in a culture that is completely unknown to them. Nana was eager to try everything — food and experiences. Though we had very little knowledge of her language and she had only slightly more of our language, we communicated. Google Translate was our friend this week, no doubt. Even so, being open, flexible and, most importantly, joyful during the week sharing experiences resulted in a lifetime connection.
Reflecting on our other experiences, I am grateful our family is still connected to our Dutch “daughter.” We are not connected to our Peruvian student, which I regret. I think of her and hope she is living a full, happy life. Each experience was truly unique. I am grateful to the students for being so brave and giving my family the opportunity to grow and learn from them.