Student Exchange Program

The nonprofit San Carlos Sister City Association (SCSCA) offers a nine day home stay exchange experience in early July with a Japanese family in Omura where one or more family members speak English, some better than others.  Students live as an extended family member and participate in normal family activities.A home hosted international exchange is a completely unique experience for most young people and being exposed to new foods and a different style of family life is a cultural awakening which makes a lasting impression opens the mind, transforms perceptions and develops new thinking. 


Most weekdays bilingual Omura City employees take our students on interesting day trips to historical sites or cultural activities.  Being safe and secure in the care of adults provides peace of mind for students and parents alike.  


SCSCA makes no charge for this exchange program but parents of our exchange students pay the cost of air travel, exchange students normally take a gift for their host family and must have their own spending money ($250 – $300 recommended).  All students depart and travel just after July 4th and well ahead of time parents are informed of the flight on which  to book their student’s ticket.  In the first Japanese arrival city (oftenTokyo) 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 but it is possible for a student to leave the group to join a family trip at the end of the program.


Candidates must be age 15 – 18 by July 1st, live between Menlo Park and Millbrae (inclusive) and be mature enough to both benefit from and contribute to the exchange experience.  The straightforward application is due by March 31st and students submit an additional single page essay on why they wish to go, what they anticipate getting from the experience and what they feel they would contribute.  Every applicant has a personal interview (moms and dads welcome) between April 1st and 10th andselectees are advised by April 15th. In the next 30 days students attend a required cultural orientation session (moms and dads welcome) on a date to be announced.Students depart just after July 4th and well ahead of time their parents are advised of the flight for which to buy their student’s ticket.


Both students and parents sign documents covering student deportment, medical aid permission and a liability release.  As we require original signatures so the original documents, not copies, are hand delivered or mailed (NOT EMAILED).  followed by a required cultural orientation.


Each family is given contact information for other students making the trip as well as the contact information of the Japanese host family and the 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 for nine days during  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 host families eat as you 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 all usual activities.  We believe that spending the great majority of the time with the family is what the experience should be about and we ask that the Japanese student be included in whatever you normally do.  The single exception may be a religious service where the student should have the choice to participate or not. Christians are a very small minority in Japan but the exchange student may be curious and should be offered the opportunity to go if this is part of your family routine.  


Hosts receive an advance copy of the Japanese student’s information and a photo. Based on past experience, the Japanese host families with whom our students stay usually send their son or daughter so the students often know each other and have spent time together.  Notwithstanding, we encourage communication between parents.


Several day trips are conducted by SCSCA on weekdays over the hosting period with dates advised well ahead of time.  Some are for most of the day and some are less. The host family is responsible for drop off and pick up their student, usually at 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 and pickup rather than mom or dad.  


As we provide the 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.  Sometimes the Japanese student simply accompany their host brother or sister as teens the world over seem to like spending time with their own age group.


If you have questions, want more information or would like to receive an application please contact