Eight Columbus North students recently returned from a two-week trip to Japan, serving as “friendship ambassadors” to sister city Miyoshi.
Every fall, Columbus hosts student ambassadors from Miyoshi. Then every other summer, Columbus students visit Miyoshi and several tourist destinations throughout Japan. The Columbus students have been making the trip since 2006.
The student exchange program fosters understanding between Columbus and Miyoshi.
Elizabeth Bays, trip chaperone and Japanese teacher at North, said the exchange is important because being immersed in a culture is the only way to truly learn its language.
“Language is a living, breathing thing,” she said. “You don’t really understand language until you understand the culture from where it came and how it’s being shaped and changed.”
You learn a lot about the place you’re visiting, Bays said, but, just as important, you learn more about your culture and how where you’ve grown up has shaped your perceptions of the world.
“Because you can’t really compare (your culture), unless you have something to compare it against,” she said.
That’s the true value of the exchange, Bays said.
This summer, North students soaked up city life in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto for half of their two-week trip. And, to get a deeper feel for Japanese culture, the students spent the other half living with families in Miyoshi.
Caleb Copeland, a 17-year-old senior, said he enjoyed cultivating the personal relationships that also connect the communities.
Copeland’s hosts in Miyoshi were the Miyagawa family, whose daughter, Masako, stayed with Copeland’s family when she came to Columbus last fall.
As a student ambassador, Copeland and fellow North students visited classrooms at two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school in Miyoshi, where Copeland said their Japanese peers were so intrigued by their foreign visitors that they would squeal at them in glee, touch their hair and stare at their eyes.
“It was like being a celebrity,” he said.
Copeland said he loved getting the opportunity to try out his Japanese, eat the country’s food and get to know its people better.
He said the experience has reinforced his desire to study abroad in Japan during college, where he also plans to study the language.
Students who traveled to Japan with Columbus North High School’s Japanese program:
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