For the past three weeks, Liberty Marsh, 12, a member of the South Bend Jolly Workers, has played hostess to Kotono Sugito, 12, a member of an Osaka, Japan LEX club who has been staying with the Marsh family as part of a cultural exchange program. The girls have become friends, despite their language barrier.
Kotono arrived in Kansas July 21, spending the first couple of days of her visit with other foreign students at Rock Springs 4-H camp south of Junction City. The Marsh family travelled there to meet her and bring her home to Great Bend. Since then, Liberty has helped Kotono learn how everyday life in America is conducted, including making meals together, doing chores, and having fun. Kotono, in exchange, brought with her a traditional Japanese costume which she allowed Liberty and her siblings to try on. She also shared with the family how to prepare and serve traditional Japanese food.
Earlier in August, the family traveled to Beaver Lake in Arkansas where all the children had the opportunity to water ski. This was Kotono’s favorite activity of all. Homework does not stop for Japanese exchange students while they are away, and the Liberty commented on how dedicated Kotono was about her work, and how beautiful her writing is.
They have also attended a service day at the Church of the Nazarene, visited Pawnee Rock, learned crochet and played many games during Kotono’s visit.
Osaka is a large city, and one of the things Kotono found very different here was how long it takes to get from place to place here in Kansas. This, was something the family was cautioned about, but Kotono adapted well to the long drives.
With school starting again, the Marsh family will say good-bye to Kotono when they take her back to Rock Springs on Thursday. She will enjoy more camping fun before flying back home, where she is longing to see her pet hamster once more.
Liberty learned about the exchange program from her 4-H leader, and while she is interested in going abroad for an exchange someday, right now she admits she is too pick of an eater to get much enjoyment out of the experience. Having an international guest has been fun, however, and something she would enjoy doing again.
There is not a 4-H program in Japan, Barton County Extension’s Bernie Unruh said. The 4-H director also said that cultural exchange programs like LEX there have similar missions, and so 4-H cooperates with them to offer the experience to their members.
LEX is an immersion-style multilingual language learning program. It stands for the Institute for Language EXperience, EXperiment and EXchange. For more information about hosting a 4-H exchange student, contact Bernie Unruh at the Barton County Extension office. Additional information about LEX is available through the LEX America website, http://www.lexlrf.org.