Aspect Foundation’s inbox is flooded with notes of gratitude for all who participate in cultural youth exchange. Today, one of our former Japanese Aspect students, Yoriko, and her host sister, Sonja, from Wisconsin write in to share how their experiences with cultural exchange have lived on generationally.
Yoriko received a Christmas present from her American host mom in 1999 – a beautiful art set! Twenty years later back in Japan, Yoriko gave that same art set to her daughter this past Christmas.
When asked to comment about her experience as an exchange student, Yoriko said it short and sweet:
“There are a lot of memories left. Memories of twenty years ago that remain clearly in my mind.”
Her former host sister, Sonja from Wisconsin, elaborated on how Yoriko and the exchange experience impacted her and her family for years to come:
“When my mother told me that we’d be inviting an exchange student from Japan to live with us for the school year, I was excited, but really had no idea how much I’d learn from her and the experience and how close we’d become. The exchange was during mine and Yoriko’s senior year of High School, and although I’d thought that I already had the world figured out, the exchange experience was my first real up-close exposure to a culture other than my own.
Yoriko taught us about Japanese food, holidays and festivals, but what was most compelling was the way she conducted herself. She is always very kind and thoughtful, and what could be mistaken for timidness in Western culture is actually the politeness of Japanese etiquette and an incredible self-awareness. Yoriko’s experience was completely immersive in a new and very different culture from her own. She is incredibly brave. I learned a lot from Yoriko, began calling her my sister after just a few weeks into our time together, and we still keep in touch through social media and even still mail physical letters to each other. There’s not much that can top receiving a letter in the mail from your sister on the other side of the world and learning of how well she’s doing and how happy she and her family are.
Someday, hopefully soon, my family and I will visit her and her family in Japan. Other than making a lifelong friend and family member, the single most important and meaningful aspect of the exchange experience I received was a completely new curiosity and enormous appreciation for diversity and culture. Through technology, our world is quickly becoming smaller every day. Understanding, or even desiring to understand others’ views and ways of thinking and doing has never been more important than it is today.”
Are you ready to bridge the gap between our worlds and open your home to an exchange student? Fill out a host family inquiry form today by clicking the link below: