Swapping Sister Schools



CHS hosts students from Seikyo Gaukuen school in a home-stay exchange program.

About 30 new faces have been mingling with the more than 4,800 students here. These new students are all unique but have one common thread:  They are from our sister school, Seikyo Gaukuen School, in Kowashnagano, Japan.

These exchange students arrived two days ago on Wednesday, according to Jon Kane, coordinator and administrative committee member, and will depart on March 27. While the students are here, the host families plan to give them opportunities to experience life in the United States  through both day-to-day activities as well as scheduled events such as a Pacers game, ice-skating, laser flash and a square dance.

Kane joined the program about 20 years ago, when one of the coordinators at the time asked him if he would like to join. He did, and said it was an amazing experience.

“When I found out that I was going to be able to travel to Japan with the group, I was really excited because I had never thought of going to Japan before,” Kane said. “An experience like this is very life changing. It opens your mind up to other cultures, outside of Carmel, outside of yourselves. Living with a family really stretches you, a family that you’ve never met before like that, stretches your, just your interactions with other people. It opens your eyes to a lot of things.”

Junior Connor Hutt joined the exchange program because a few of his friends had participated in the year prior and really enjoyed the experience. Hutt is hosting a boy named Keita Maekawa, the same person he stayed with when he traveled to Japan last summer. 

“I joined (the program) last year, and basically, you can sign up and it’s an open meeting, and we meet twice a month and we talk about having our students here or last year we were talking about going to Japan because last year we went to Japan. You have to fill out an application and then you do this interview with the people that run the program,” Hutt said.

Administrative committee member LaDonna Kliewer said she first became part of the program six years ago when her daughter hosted a Japanese student. Now, each of her three children have hosted a student, and she said the experience has shown them the similarities of their cultures and broadened their perspective beyond the benefits of Carmel.

“We just had such a great time and a really neat connection with (the first girl we hosted), and she’s now part of our family and we consider her part of our family,” Kliewer said. “It’s something that I wanted to help other families be able to do, give them an opportunity to connect with other cultures and learn more about the similarities between ourselves and people from other countries.”

Hutt also said he has gained a lot from his experience with the program.

“I’m getting a lot of cultural awareness, and I’m making lifelong friends. I’m meeting new people from Carmel that I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t been in this program,” Hutt said. “I really like the new aspect that I get to bring to my life, the new experiences that I get, like having hosted a student and being in Japan.

(It has) been really life changing.”