After living with Utah families for 10 days, Japanese students returned to their country with enough knowledge and experience to act as representatives of Utah, according to the coordinator of Provo School's Japanese-American Exchange Program.
"Now that they have lived with families, they can go home with a solid understanding of what it is like here," Ken Ivory said. "That is a big plus for Utah and Japan."Families throughout the school district opened their homes to the Japanese students and spent 10 days showing them Utah sites from Temple Square to the Provo City Center.
"It was interesting trying to communicate, but it was neat to have her in our home," said Cindy VanOrman, a Provo High senior whose family was one of many throughout the district to host a Japanese student. "It showed us how kind and generous other cultures are."
Probably the hardest part of the trip came on Monday when host families and the Japanese students said goodbye, Ivory said.
"We couldn't get them on the bus. The kids didn't want to leave and the families didn't want to let them go," he said.
Now the American students are hoping to have the opportunity to stay in the homes of their Japanese visitors, Ivory said.
As part of the Japanese-American exchange program, plans are in the works to send students from Utah to Japan in July. But Ivory said the trip will not be financially possible unless 20 students go.
Eight students from the Provo School District have already committed to going. To increase participation, Ivory said they will make the exchange program available to districts throughout the state.
The students will have to finance the trip themselves. Estimated cost is $2,000 per person.
The Asian Clubs at Provo and Timpview sponsored a Japanese dinner to raise money while the Japanese students were in Provo, but they made only $70, Ivory said.
"From here, we will work out a structured plan to approach the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce and companies in the area who could possibly give the students scholarship money," Ivory said.
According to Merrell Hansen, Provo School District's curriculum director of secondary education, the trip won't be just a vacation students will have a rigorous schedule. They will visit high-tech industries, shrines, and have a healthy introduction to Japanese education.
"Visiting another country is so revealing. By offering that to high school students, it can expand their world view and open their mind to the possibilities of what's out there before they go to college," Ivory said. "We wish we could get other people to catch the vision of the exchange program."
The Japanese-American exchange program was organized through the support of Teikyo University in Tokyo, Japan, BYU's Asian Outreach and the Provo School District in 1987 to foster international brotherhood.