At UW- Richland’s Exchange Program, American teens learn American culture, too
Area teens help Japanese teens prepare for a year of study in the U.S.
While she was helping Japanese teens practice their English and adapt to high school life in the U.S.A.,
Audrey Reese, Mauston, learned something new about her own American culture.
“One of the Japanese students pointed out to me something I hadn’t noticed before--that the sizes of our
coins are confusing,” Reese said. “In Japan, the smaller amounts are the smaller sized coins. But here, a
dime is smaller than a penny or a nickel.”
Reese, one of 14 high school students from southwest Wisconsin, learned that and much more about her
own culture, and a few things about Japanese culture, too, while participating in the 2008 Youth for
Understanding Japanese Program held July 24 through August 2 on the University of Wisconsin-Richland
The program brought 47 teens from Japan to UW-Richland to take part in a program that prepares the
Japanese teens for a year in the U.S. as high school exchange students. While a major focus of the
program is on English as a Second Language (ESL) classes taught by certified instructors, another
important aspect of the program is education in American high school life and culture. The experts
teaching those courses are American teens. In addition to Reese, those cultural ambassadors were:
Cassandra Bauer, Mauston;
Tasha Bodendein, Lone Rock;
Amanda Brunner, Elroy;
Robyn Fredericks, Blue River;
Timothy Furbish, Richland Center;
Jessica Gorak, Monona;
Jordan Lancaster, Mauston;
Amanda Larson, New Lisbon;
Laurissa Lueck, Viroqua;
Clara McGlynn, Reedsburg;
Patrick Meuer, Cobb;
Tiffany Schumer, Mauston; and
Tia Thao, Madison.
Each of these Wisconsin teens was teamed up with three or four Japanese students, to be study partners, roommates at UW-Richland’s Campus View student
housing, mentors, and teachers of American/Wisconsin/high school/family life and culture.
Home visits on Sunday, July 27, provided immersion learning opportunities.
Saki Kataoka, from Fukuoka, Japan, went with Tasha Bodendein on a visit to Tasha’s grandmother’s home. Kataoka was surprised that it was acceptable to wear
shoes inside the house. She was pleased, too with the quality of another American item. “The toilet paper,” she said, “is so soft.”
Bodendein genuinely enjoyed working with the Japanese students. “It does good and it has a purpose,” she said.
Sally Corey, Richland Center, who has been involved in the program since starting as a teen mentor back in 2001, this year worked closely with director Diane
Treis Rusk. As assistant coordinator, Corey’s duties included coordinating the teen mentors, drawing on her five previous years of experience as a mentor and
later as a member of the annual program’s staff.
“When the Japanese teens first arrive, they’re so enthusiastic about American culture—fashions, language, dancing, social activities . . . everything we do,”
Corey said. Their enthusiasm is contagious. “It’s not until you interact with people from another culture that you see how great your own country is.”
Corey said that the Wisconsin teen mentors helped plan the high school life education aspects of the program starting in late June, when they met for their own
training. Among the activities were a swimming party, deejay dance, and soccer game. Richland Center High School Principal John Cler led the group on a
tour of Richland Center High School. Taping of the American reality television program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” underway in the Richland area
during the Japanese Program, provided an unexpected opportunity and the group visited the construction site.
Like many of the Wisconsin teen mentors she worked with, Corey values the learning experiences she’s gained through this program—including personal
leadership skills and a new perspective of her culture.
“While the classroom experience provides the Japanese students with English language tools, the American teens provide the best way for the Japanese students
to practice their English,” said Diane Treis Rusk, program director. “The students,” she said, “appreciated the warm welcome they received in the community. “
The Japanese teens left UW-Richland August 2 for towns and cities across the U.S. to begin their yearlong experience as exchange students. For more
information about the program, contact Treis Rusk by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling (608) 647-6186, Extension 227.
|(From top left) Audrey Reese (l) Mauston,
expanded her horizons this summer working
with Japanese students at UW-Richland; Tia
Thao (left) of Madison, worked with teens from
Japan this summer on the UW-Richland
campus; Tasha Bodendendein of Lone Rock
(r), helped Saki Kataoka (l) and other teens
from Japan to understand life in the U.S.A.;
2008 Japanese Group photo at UW-Richland