Japanese High School Students Visit and Learn about the “Windy City” on the 2017 Chicago-Tagajo TOMODACHI Exchange Program
From September 3 – 9, 2017, six high school students and their chaperone from Tagajo, Miyagi prefecture, visited the “Windy City,” Chicago, Illinois, as part of the 2017 Chicago-Tagajo TOMODACHI Exchange program. The students enjoyed Chicago’s very own pizza upon their arrival at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which included a Chicago-style welcome party by staff from the Japan America Society of Chicago, homestay families, and local sponsors.
After spending a day with their homestay families, the students enjoyed a private tour of the University of Chicago to help inspire their future ambitions, followed by a private tour of the Art Institute of Chicago to fuel their artistic sides. In addition, the students went on company tours at OMRON Corporation and Molex, LLC, where they saw product assembly lines and attended presentations from management about global business practices. The students also shopped for souvenirs in downtown Chicago and viewed the beautiful Chicago skyline on an architecture boat cruise along the river.
The Chicago-style farewell reception concluded the program, with everything from mini hotdogs to mini Italian beef sandwiches and Garrett’s popcorn. The reception also included a special meeting and presentation by Consul-General Naoki Ito from the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago. The students also honed their communication skills by giving presentations on a variety of topics, from school life to Japanese food and festivals.
The highlight of the exchange was when the students spent a day at Lane Tech College Prep High School, one of the largest Chicago Public Schools. The students sat in on several classes, including Japanese class and Drivers Education, ate in the cafeteria, and immersed themselves in a completely different learning environment. Seia Hoshi, one of the participants, talked about her experience at the high school, saying, “I was happy to give my speech at farewell reception while everyone listened seriously and gave me compliments. I was surprised that Lane Tech College Prep High School is very different from my school in Japan. Students were very kind. They helped me with my English a lot. I had a wonderful experience. I will study hard to be able to study abroad in the future.” After a long school day, Tagajo and Lane students enjoyed a pizza party, where they continued their conversations and deepened their friendships and experiences.
Momoko Chiba reflected on her experience, saying, “I was surprised by the cultural differences I experienced through this exchange program. I learned many things I would not have been able to learn if I had not come here. This program broadened my perspectives.”