One hundred and fifteen Japanese exchange students arrived at Ecole Notre Dame Secondaire on Friday afternoon. The students will be residing in Central Alberta for the next two weeks, after which their 61 host students will in turn go to Japan in July.
Two Japanese students will pair up with a Central Albertan host family and attend Notre Dame, Innisfail High School or Fox Run High School in Sylvan Lake.
This exchange program between Central Alberta and Japan has been ongoing since 1969, with Japanese students visiting the area every three years.
While visiting Alberta, participants in the exchange will visit a variety of locations in the province including the Rocky Mountains, West Edmonton Mall, the Drumheller Museum and any other locations their host families may individually plan for them.
Co-Chair of the Exchange Organizational Committee Paul Couillard explained the program is a great way for students of both nationalities to learn about other cultures and is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the majority of the students.
“Sixty-six students will be returning to Yokohama and it is wonderful to see the tradition become so longstanding,” said Couillard during the welcoming of the students at Notre Dame.
Central Alberta host parents who participate in the exchange stated the visiting students are usually quite nervous when they first arrive to stay with them, but usually open up as they settle into their surroundings and get used to the language.
“They are usually pretty shy and quiet when they get here and their English was so-so,” said Doug Marchuk, who has participated in the exchange twice now, first with his son Nick, 19, and now his daughter Michaela, 17. “But when you are thrown into an Alberta home with five kids you open up pretty quickly.”
Marchuk added not only do the Japanese students learn immense amounts while participating in the exchange but he also saw his own children receive unbeatable life experience while they were visiting Japan.
“Our family is big into martial arts, so when my son got to go to Japan, the first thing his host family did when they heard of his interests was take him to a 3,000 year old samurai city,” said Marchuk.
Michaela added she is excited to host Kaede Kurokawa and Haruka Nagano.
“I’m excited to take them to the different areas and see their reactions,” she added. “The last time we hosted two boys because it was for my brother’s exchange so this time it’s nice we get to have two girls stay with us.”