Bridging the Barrier: Fuchu High School Students Participate in MHS Homestay Program


By Maiya Ezawa
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(Anika Ramos | Trojan Times) Kana Yokoyama, left, sits with Kana Morita (11), right, as part of the exchange program between Fuchu High School and MHS. The Japanese exchange students immersed themselves in Hawaii’s culture during their stay.

From March 27 to April 8, six Fuchu High School students from Japan came to MHS for the annual cultural exchange program. A number of host families were selected from MHS’ Japanese Language program and each were awarded a $300 stipend to alleviate some of the costs of hosting. The exchange students shadowed their host, attending their classes and experiencing life in the American educational system.

“Since this is more of a cultural exchange rather than an academic one, the focus is on giving our exchange students some insight on what it is like to be a typical teenager in Hawaii. Therefore, we encourage the host families to involve their exchange students in their day-to-day activities as much as possible and give them a realistic experience of what life is like here. All of our families have been very gracious hosts and have treated our exchange students with the same aloha they would extend to any friend, family member or visitor. Our hosts go out of their way to make their guests feel welcome and take a genuine interest in the preferences and interests of their exchange student, which often means visiting places of interest and enjoying what Hawaii has to offer,” said Cultural Exchange Facilitator Ivy Ogawa.

Although most of the Fuchu students have been to Hawaii before during their annual visitation day in October, host families still try to incorporate tourist type activities for them to experience the culture in depth. “We took (our exchange student) to places like Waikiki, Dole Plantation, the beach (and) took her to eat local foods like burgers. (We also went to) Haleiwa, Ala Moana and some (tourist-eseque) things,” stated host Freshman Kylie Hull. “There are no specific requirements to be a host family aside from being able to provide a welcoming and hospitable environment for the exchange student,” added Ogawa.

At school, Fuchu students shadowed MHS students—attending classes, socializing in their groups and observing American culture. “By taking (Masahiro Niihara) around the school, I’ve realized that we have a variety of (ethnicities) in this school that makes us unique. He shared with me at his school, (Fuchu), almost everyone is full Japanese and therefore, he was surprised to see how many different ethnicities there are and how we all can get along with each other,” stated translator Sophomore Yuto Terada.

While the culture in Hawaii may be very different from that in Japan, the students of Fuchu were still able to create relationships with their hosts and other students at MHS. “I believe (Niihara) enjoyed the food, especially the Loco Moco at Zippy’s, as well as going to Ala Moana and shopping,” added Terada.

MHS students also got to experience and learn about Japanese culture through their interaction with not only their own exchange student, but through the planned group activities and get-togethers. “The most vital thing I learned was their culture and how polite they are. She always helped (our family) when it looked like we needed help around the house like folding laundry and other things; also she was very organized. Every night after she got out of the shower she would put all her things away in a Ziploc bag and then the next day she would do the same thing. I also learned how friendships develop and that you don’t have to completely know each other but just putting in the effort to getting to know a person really makes the difference,” explained Hull.

A group of MHS students will travel to Japan in the summer to participate in a similar exchange program, where Fuchu students will host them.