Penticton families sought to host Japanese visitors

Program organizing trip for Japanese high school students to Penticton are looking for host families.

Students from Shiba High School in Tokyo

Students from Shiba High School in Tokyo

High school students from Japan are coming to experience Penticton next month, and the program organizing the adventure is looking for host families that want to help the teens explore the True White North.

Each summer through Muskoka Language International Homestay, a class of 15 and 16-year-old Japanese students leave the densely populated city of Tokyo to experience the Okanagan

“They’re used to everything being big and pretty much free of trees and open space,” said Michelle Edis, program co-ordinator. “That’s one of the things they’re most excited about — they have to write an intro paragraph about themselves, and they’re all excited to see Canada’s nature, so the Okanagan’s the place to be.”

The students who make the trip each year come from the same school in Tokyo, and Penticton was initially chosen as their destination because it’s a smaller city that offers the English-immersion program an attractive natural surrounding.

To fully immerse the students into an English-speaking environment, the students are kept separate from eachother when they spend time with their host families. Edis is looking for families that will have the time and desire to show their guests around the community, and engage in meaningful discussion.

Host families will be required to provide students with transportation to KVR Middle School during weekdays, as well as pack them a lunch.

The Japanese students will spend the first half of their weekdays at school learning English, and the second half exploring the Okanagan.

On the first day the class takes a walking tour of Penticton and later involve themselves as local volunteers.

“Then during evenings and all weekend the students spend time with their host families learning English; learning how we do things; what we do for fun. And the families have always been fantastic — they really show them a good time,” said Edis.

Edis will be hosting a student herself this summer, and took one in last year as well. She keeps near-weekly contact with her guest from last year, and said that he recently sent her a CD he made containing his favourite music from Japan. Edis is also a dance teacher so the exchange students’ love for music gave them lots to talk about. He’s even looking at returning to Penticton to stay with her family again for a month.

With the advent of Facebook, Edis said that keeping in touch has become extremely simple. Citing a recent online conversation, Edis said the student’s favourite part of last year’s visit were the sweets, second only to his water tubing experience.

The program matches students with families that share similar interests as much as possible, she said. Modest compensation is offered to the hosts. Edis said that often families with children are ideal hosts.

The visit will be taking place this year between July 20 and 31. Those interested in taking an international students under their wing can find out more by contacting Edis at michelle.w.edis@gmail.com.