Pacific Bridge: Connecting with Japanese Exchange Students through Ayusa

Editor’s note: Pacific Bridge is moving to an online model! We will publish stories on the go to provide the JETAANC community with timely knowledge of alumni activities and events.

After returning from the JET program in 2007, I was eager to enter a field where I could continue to promote cross-cultural understanding, tolerance, and awareness. I was extremely fortunate to find my way into Ayusa International, a division of Intrax Cultural Exchange that brings foreign exchange students to the United States for both year-long and short-term programs.

At Ayusa, I work in our Partner and Participant Services Department, which is where I cultivate and maintain relationships with our international partners and resolve issues that arise with our students while they are in the United States. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit our branch office in Japan, travel domestically to visit our students, host families and staff, and work on a variety of projects that foster international exchange.

Working at Ayusa has been a rewarding experience for me both professionally and personally. It’s inspiring to see the impact of the work we do in the lives of our students and the families who graciously host them. This coming summer, I am thrilled about a new program that we will be facilitating here in the Bay Area—the Tomodachi Softbank Leadership Program—and feel that it would be a great opportunity available for JET alumni in the Bay Area.

The Tomodachi Initiative is a public-private partnership that supports Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and invests in the next generation of Japanese high school students. Through these young adults, we can strengthen cultural and economic ties and deepen the friendship between the United States and Japan for the years to come. The Tomodachi Softbank Leadership Program is led by the U.S.-Japan Council and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo with the support of the Japanese government.

As part of the Tomodachi Initiative, Ayusa has designed an intensive three week program for 300 Japanese high school students, focusing on global leadership development and community service in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley. These students will learn leadership skills and develop community service projects to implement in their home communities when they return to Japan. The program will feature extensive contact with American people and values through an academic program, a weekend homestay, and a number of social and sightseeing activities.

For the homestay weekend, we are currently looking for a number of families throughout the Bay Area to host students. The hosting dates are Friday, August 3 through Sunday, August 5, 2012. All Families are welcome—with or without children, single people, retirees, etc. We are looking for families that can provide the students with a safe, welcoming, and respectful environment, their own bed, and private space. A host family member must be 25 years or older and pass a background check. For more information about this opportunity, please contact Menraj Sachdev at 415.434.5519 or msachdev@ayusa.org. For more information about Ayusa or hosting a student for an academic year here in the Bay area or across the US, please contact me at 415.434.5562 or rpeters@ayusa.org.

-Rachel Peters, Fukuoka, 2004-07

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