Wednesday, December 15, 2010

4-H International Exchange Programs

Bring the world into your home next summer!  Did you know that Michigan 4-H sponsors International Exchange Programs that give Michigan families the opportunity to host youth from other countries?  Michigan 4-H youth can also travel to different countries throughout the world as part of this program.

During the summer of 2011, Michigan will be hosting youth from Belize, Poland and Japan.  Families need to have a youth of the same age and gender as their exchangee living in the home to participate in the program.  

Japan Inbound Hosting Opportunity

About 60 Japanese students between the ages of 12 and 16 will travel to Michigan during the summer of 2011.  These young people are excited to learn about your family's customs and culture, your values, foods, clothes, and lifestyle. But mostly they want to make friends, meet other young people, and try communicating in English!

Would you consider opening your home to one of these students, or their chaperone?  The exchange takes place mid-July to mid-August, 2011.  Students are matched with host siblings of the same age and gender. Host families do not need to plan special activities. 

You may wonder - what is the impact of participating as a host family? 

According to reports from six families that hosted in 2007-2008, host brothers/sisters gained an understanding that they have a lot in common with people from other cultures.  They also learned to care about and appreciate people who are different from themselves.  Host youth were able to experience what it means to be a good representative of the United States and how important it is to learn to communicate with others from different cultures.  Host siblings were able to work through misunderstandings. 

Host youth reported that communicating in a language other than English was even more difficult than anticipated but other things were not as difficult as expected.  Some of these things included the exchange student getting homesick (most did not), not getting along with the Japanese youth (most did just fine) and making mistakes because of not understanding the Japanese culture and customs (people seem to have more similarities than differences).

Host parents noticed that their son/daughter gained the skills of making new friends, accepting differences, working in cooperation with others and being comfortable in new situations.  Adults found a new respect for having to care for someone who is a long way from home and learned skills of how to be tolerant of differences.  Living with people they didn’t know was a unique positive experience.

Two families reported that they gained a helpful awareness of how they relate to each other.  Several families shared that they learned how to be more patient and that the host experience brought their family closer together.  Gaining a respect for how brave the young Japanese girl was to travel from her home to a strange country and stay with people she never met before was enlightening for one family.  The resounding theme of what the families gained was basically patience, understanding and friendship!

Results from the 2003 Japanese Exchange Program Evaluation conducted by Dr. Mary E. Arnold of Oregon State University reveal that youth who participate as hosts to international visitors reported gains in life and personal skills that were similar to those who traveled to Japan.  From learning to appreciate other people and cultures, to developing important social skills, to forming a self and career identity, youth participating in the exchange experience report that it has a high level of impact on their lives.  This has important program implications as the results show that it is not necessary to travel to another country in order to have a significant inter-cultural experience!

Poland Inbound Hosting Opportunity:

Teens, ages14 to 19 as of January 1, 2011, from around Michigan are invited to host students traveling here from Poland from June 24 to approximately July 21, 2011.  This hosting opportunity is coordinated by Michigan State University Extension, 4-H Youth Development Global and Cultural Programs.

Youth who host students this summer will have the chance to make life-long international friends and have the opportunity to travel to Poland in 2012.

For a host family application or more information contact your county 4-H Extension Educator at the MSU Extension office or contact the trip Coordinator:

Polish Exchange trip coordinator, Jan Brinn at 269-673-0370 Ext. 2555 or at  
Japan Exchange trip coordinator, Wanda Repke at 231-922-4825 or at
Belize Exchange trip coordinator, Pat Waugh at 810-667-0341 or at

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