MOSES LAKE — Students from Yonezawa, Japan, arrived Wednesday afternoon in Moses Lake as part of the Sister City Exchange program.
Yu Sato, Shutaro Taida and Miku Goto arrived in Seattle this afternoon with the chaperons. The students will be staying with the families of the three Moses Lake students, Ana McCabe, Karson Voss and Kate Tran, who returned from their visit to Yonezawa on Monday.
President of the board for the Moses Lake Sister City Exchange, Krystin Moore, said the program’s fundamental belief lies in working to understand one another as neighbors in the world, in a more intimate way with the home-stay visits.
“It’s an experience they’re not going to get any other way,” Moore said. “It’s not something you can get in a touring trip or just in vacationing. It’s really one hundred percent immersive, and that’s what you really need to understand and really get that bond with these sister communities.”
Coming from Yonezawa, located in a mountainous region of Japan, the open landscape of Moses Lake can be a big change for these students when they arrive, many of whom are traveling far away from their homes and families for the first time.
The visiting students have a busy week scheduled ahead of them including a tour of the city’s Japanese garden and trips to Spokane, Summer Falls, Dry Falls and the Grant County Fair, among many other activities over the next week. The students will also get to visit City Hall, the police department, and the fire department.
The exchange program between Moses Lake and Yonezawa is in its 38th year; it was founded by Paul and Ginny Hirai in 1981. Over 200 students have been sent back and forth through the program over that span.
Moore said the bond that is built between the students and families in such a short amount of time is “amazing.” People who took part in the exchange program in the 1980s and ’90s still stay in close contact with their host families, Moore said, including herself.
“I would say the most amazing part of this whole program is that you really expand your personal worldview,” Moore said. “And that’s so important. You learn that even despite all the differences, we’re really so similar.”
The Yonezawa students will make the trip back to Seattle on Friday, Aug. 16 for their trip back home.