Clarkstown South junior Meaghan Greene and her family will host a Japanese exchange student this weekend, and shortly after Greene met her temporary roommate, she learned what the exchange student most wanted to do in America.
“She told me she wanted to try fruits and vegetables that only grow in America,” Greene said. “I don’t know what those are, but I guess I’ll have to find out. She is an agricultural student.”
Goode’s exchange student is part of a group of 24 visiting Clarkstown this weekend from Miyagi Agricultural High School from Natori in the Miyagi Prefecture on the eastern coat of Japan’s main island, Honshu. From the group, 16 are staying with host families from Clarkstown North and eight are staying with families from South.
On Thursday, the group arrived in Clarkstown, the middle leg of its trip to America to teach students here about the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake that devastated much of Japan, including their own school. They previously spent three nights in Washington D.C. and on Sunday morning leave for Seattle. The group is here as part of the Kizuna Project, which is run by the Japanese government to help the rest of the world understand Japan’s rebuilding efforts since the 2011 disaster.
Last year, Clarkstown schools sent a group of 23 to Japan as part of the program, although they didn’t visit Natori. Instead they went to Osaka. Greene was one of the 23 students who went and said she enjoyed her one night of staying in a Japanese family’s house.
“It was awkward at first, but we ended up becoming friends,” she said. “We pretty much spent the whole night talking and even though we didn’t totally understand each other, we did. We talked for hours and we still email and talk.”
The students in from Japan are only here for the weekend, but have a packed schedule. On Thursday they had a welcoming party right after arriving at South, and then that night they attended South’s World Language Honor Society, where they sang a song with students from Clarkstown. On Friday the students went to school with their host student and made presentations on the aftermath and rebuild efforts after the 2011 storm. That night they had pretty much their only free time. North and South Japanese language teacher Akiko Uchiyama said she thought a lot of the students with exchange students will get together and hang out or go to the Palisades Mall.
On Saturday the entire group is going to New York City, where they’ll have a picnic in Central Park, take a ride down Fifth Avenue and go on an hour cruise.
“I was told they all really want to see the Statue of Liberty,” Uchiyama said.
On their way back, they’ll stop off in New Jersey at Hamilton Park so they can see the New York City skyline all lit up at night. Then at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday they’ll meet at South so the students from Japan can make their way to airport to head to Seattle. While the group won’t be in Clarkstown long, Uchiyama said she hopes the two groups can form a long-lasting bond.
Greene said she’s hoping for the same.
“I’m very honored to have the students stay with us after all they’ve been through,” Greene said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know each other.”