The Hikone Exchange Program kicks off Monday when AAPS welcomes 14 Japanese students

AAPS students will travel to Japan in November

Story, photos and video by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News

Fourteen AAPS families will welcome guests from Hikone, Japan Monday night as the 38th annual Hikone Exchange Program gets underway.

The 14 Japanese middle schoolers will spend nine days here, attending classes and getting acquainted with American culture.

Then on Nov. 15, 14 AAPS middle schoolers will begin their two-week experience travelling to Ann Arbor’s sister city of Hikone, staying with host families and attending school.

Tappan eighth grader Rose Basch gets a few tips on the Japanese language from a volunteer from the University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies. All 14 AAPS students in the Hikone Exchange Program have been meeting weekly to prepare for their trip in November.

AAPS has a full roster of activities waiting for the visiting students, including a trip to Dearborn Village and a Halloween party.

Tappan eighth grader Rose Basch loved hosting a student from Hikone last year. This year, it’s Rose’s turn to travel—and she can’t wait to go to Japan where she looks forward to meeting her host family.

“And trying a ton of food,” she added with a smile.

Each year about 40 middle school students apply to travel to Hikone, and about a dozen are chosen through an interview/essay process.

This will be the second time coordinator Ian Shephard, a Scarlett Middle School teacher, accompanies a group of students to Hikone.

Shephard recalls driving around the city with his host teacher, and catching sight of AAPS students with his or her host brother or sister either on the train or at a mall or riding bikes.

“Most of our students were really happy to be so independent while so far away from home,” he said, calling it “an amazing experience” for the kids.

Clague eighth grader Nick Grosh said his older brother’s trip to Hikone changed his life, and he’s looking forward to his own travel abroad.

“It’s a great experience to bond with Japan—especially since what happened in the war, and how we’ve become allies.”

“It’s an amazing program and I think it’ll be an amazing experience.”



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