San Carlos Sister City Association offers high school age student the opportunity for a home hosted exchange in our sister city, Omura, Nagasaki, Japan. Candidates must be age 15 – 18, live between Menlo Park and San Mateo (inclusive) and be mature enough to both benefit from and contribute to the exchange experience. It is a two week home stay, in mid July, with a family in Omura where one or more speak English, some better than others. Students are housed and fed by the family and participate in normal family activities so they get a flavor of not only Japanese food but culture and family life as well. Most weekdays bilingual Omura City employees take our students on day trips to historical or cultural sites or activities. San Carlos Sister City Association makes no charge of any sort for this exchange program but parents of our exchange students pay the cost of air travel, the exchange students normally take a gift for the host family and have their own spending money.
The application is straightforward and students submit a single page essay on why they wish to go, what they anticipate getting from the experience and what they feel they would contribute. Both students and parents sign documents covering student deportment, medical aid permission and liability release. Everyone who applies has a personal interview (moms and dads invited) and selectees are notified within few days after the end of interview period. There is a required orientation several weeks later to which parents are also invited.
Parents are advised of the selected flights so all students travel and arrive together and parents are informed so they can book their student’s ticket. In the arrival city (usually Tokyo) airline personnel accompany our students to the connecting flight to Fukuoka where they are met by bilingual Omura City employees and taken to their host family. The process is reversed on the return. It’s possible for a student to leave the group to join a family trip at the end of the program.
Each family is given contact information for other students making the trip as well as the contact information of the Japanese host family and City of Omura International Department. We encourage communication between the families, parents and students, who often exchange emails, pictures and even letters prior to meeting.
In reciprocity, we require that each family sending a student to Japan host an English speaking Japanese student the first two weeks of August and there must be an adult, age 21 or older, in the household when the exchange student is there. We try to match the gender, unless the parents have no preference, as most families and most students prefer this. It is not necessary for the Japanese exchange students to have their own bedroom unless the gender is different but it is necessary that the exchange student have his/her own bed. As part of the experience, we ask that the host family eat as they normally do so there is no expectation to provide special meals but if there is an allergy or medical reason noted on the student’s application we so advise the host parents.
In addition to providing accommodation and meals, hosting means making the student a temporary family member for usual activities. Hosts receive a copy of the Japanese student’s information and a photo. Based on past experience, the Japanese host family with whom our students stay usually send their son or daughter so the kids already know each other and have spent time together. Notwithstanding, we encourage communication between the parents.
Several weekday day trips are conducted by San Carlos Sister City Assn. on weekdays over the two weeks and dates are advised well ahead of time. Some are for most of the day and some are less. The host family is responsible for dropping off and picking up their student, usually at the San Carlos library parking lot. Students are then transported by a member of the Association for the day or activity. In past years host family sons or daughters who are licensed drivers have sometimes done the drop off/ pickup rather than mom or dad. We believe that spending the great majority of the time with the family is what the experience should be about and we ask that hosts include the Japanese student in whatever they normally do. The single exception may be a religious service where the student should have the choice to participate or not. Christians are a small minority in Japan but the exchange student may be curious and should be offered the opportunity to go if this is part of the family routine.
San Carlos Sister City Association provides contact information for each host family to all the host families, each year the parents have talked among themselves and shared students for a day or activity which has worked quite well. Often Japanese students simply accompany their host brother or sister for most of the day as teens the world over seem to prefer spending time with their own age group.
If you would like more information or interested in Student Exchange Program, please contact us here.