Summer exchange program seeks families looking for ‘incredible experience’ hosting Japanese youth

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ST. GEORGE — Seven families are needed to host Japanese youths who are visiting America and looking to see the wonders of Southern Utah as part of an exchange program hosted by Utah-based Family Exchange.

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“These kids get to join our families and share in the same experiences our own children already do, and we get to learn about their culture as well,” Chris Barela the organization’s new Southern Utah representative told St. George News.

The agency is looking to place two girls and five boys with host families in Southern Utah from July 25 through Aug. 18.

Students from all around the world come to Utah to become familiar with the American way of life by experiencing authentic family life, Barela said, and Family Exchange is dedicated to providing a cultural exchange experience for international students and host families that can last a lifetime.

The summer exchange program hosts children ages 12-17 who work all year on their English language skills in Japan. During summer they have the opportunity to put their skills to the test when they fly to Utah to join a volunteer host family – not as a tourist or guest but as a family member for 23 days, which allows the children to experience daily life in the United States by helping out with chores and trying new experiences.

“The kids get to come to the U.S. for three weeks in the summer and get an incredible experience, as do the families that volunteer to host these kids,” Barela said.

For the exchange to happen, both the host family and exchange student complete an application process that includes exchanging family photos and listing their interests and ideas of what they want to do during their stay.

The only requirement of the host family environment is that the home is safe, well maintained and clean, with adequate room to accommodate the youth. Since family dynamics are diverse and varied, anyone can apply regardless of marital status. Only one Japanese youth per home is allowed, which helps to make the experience more memorable for both the family and the student.

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For the family that hosts a Japanese student, it is an opportunity to learn more about the Asian culture, Barela said, such as what it might be like to live in Japan, eat traditional meals and play games that are commonly played in their students’ home country.

The experience can also bring the larger world to the family and community, creating lifelong relationships with a youth with whom the family may not have otherwise crossed paths.

“These are friendships that last a lifetime,” Barela said. “Many of the kids may go on to study abroad as they get older due to the experiences they have over the summer with a Southern Utah family.”

Family Exchange also places high schools exchange students ages 15 through 17 for the school year. For more information on hosting a child or the other programs provided, go to the Family Exchange website or email Barela directly at [email protected].

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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