Koka Students in Traverse City
February 8, 2018
Early in the morning January 12, the six Japanese students that participated in this year’s foreign exchange program boarded a flight back home. The days they were here were filled with lots of fun for the kids with their host families, other students, and chaperones. This year’s hosts included myself, Gabe Howard, Sydney Flaherty, Emily Laferriere, Grace Westerhuis, and Aidan Knipe. It was very hard for the East and West middle school students to see their new friends leave. For the host families this was especially hard. In a matter of days the visiting students had become part of the family.
While the students were here, they participated in many activities normal for us who live here in Traverse City. We had fun tubing at Timberlee and glow bowling at Lucky Jacks. Some students also did some other things on their own time including swimming, going to the movies, ice skating, and skiing. At home it seemed as if the smaller things helped the most with bonding. In my case, doing origami with my student was really a breakthrough when it came to being more comfortable around each other.
During the week our friends from Koka also got to experience an American school environment. Though they went on mini field trips with the chaperones for part of each day, they still had plenty of time to see what our schools are like. All the students really seemed to enjoy eating in the cafeteria. In Japan, the food is brought to the classroom and everyone eats the same thing. The Japanese students were were surprised at how large the cafeteria was. They were also very excited to try our hot lunch.
The night before their departure was memorable the students from both countries, but it was also very emotional. A dinner to bid farewell was hosted by current and previous families involved in the program. Speeches were given by the coordinators and administrators and by the Japanese students who had been challenged to write a small speech thanking their families and talking about their experience. The students’ heart warming words touched the hearts of all involved. A few were even in tears. Before heading home to finish packing, the students performed a dance. Their American counterparts were then asked to try and dance alongside them which was embarrassing yet hilarious. Not long after, it was time to go home, pack, and go to bed.
At four in the morning all the families arrived at the airport. Last-minute pictures were taken, and, with heavy hearts, goodbyes were exchanged. It seemed like it was only minutes before it was time for them to go through security before boarding. Continuous waving took place until the students were out of sight. It was hard to see them leave, but all six of us TCAPS students are anxiously anticipating our trip over there.