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Japanese high school students share culture, friendship with Athens peers


Sixteen Japanese High School students arrived in Athens on July 21 for the two and half-week American Culture and Language Studies Program, developed and organized by the Ohio Program of Intensive of English (OPIE). The students studied and lived with area high school students.

"The Japanese students get to have a very safe structured cross-cultural program to improve their English and knowledge of American culture. For the American students, they get the same thing," said Gerard Krzic, director of OPIE.

The Japanese students took not only reading and writing classes, but also a cross-cultural class with American students during the day. Those classes were designed to improve their language skills and promote cultural understanding.

In addition to class work, the Japanese student had culture activities to give them an opportunity to learn more about American culture. Activities included trips to the Athens Farmers Market, the Athens Public Library, the Ohio State Fair, a weekend homestay in Cincinnati, and an overnight excursion to Niagara Falls.

"I have been learning English for six years, and I really want to learn and use it in America someday. That is why I wanted to join it (the program)," said Takasugi Koki, a Japanese student who participated in the program. "My English improved. I had fun and I made a lot of American friends."

When it comes to the cultural differences, Koki talked about the food. He said American food surprised him the most because of the strong tastes.

Krzic said that one of the most shocking things to both the American and Japanese students can be the differences in daily life.  

"When we talk about high school in Japan and high school in America, the American students are very surprised that Japanese students clean their schools and they have a lot classes after school," said Krzic.

But more than learning how different they are, the high school students learn how alike they are.

"It is a good program. It's meant to provide a positive experience of the U.S. for Japanese students and for our American students who can't always go study in Japan or other countries; it meant to give them an international experience," said Krzic.