Former Moose Jaw resident seeks hosts for Japanese exchange program

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To bridge the cultural gap between east and west through an exciting student exchange program, former Moose Jaw resident Arron Dobrescu is now reaching out to local families to host approximately 25 young Japanese student ambassadors before their arrival on July 25

MOOSE JAW — To bridge the cultural gap between east and west through an exciting student exchange program, former resident Arron Dobrescu is now reaching out to families to host approximately 25 young Japanese student ambassadors.

Dobrescu now lives in Yokohama, Japan, and is the founder and CEO of Spike & Ai International After School. He’s looking for approximately 10 or 12 families to host his Japanese students in the spirit of omotenashi – Japan’s renowned display of hospitality – between July 25 and Aug. 2.

Brad Raes, A.E. Peacock’s vice-principal, was a former billet with the program and said that he, his wife, and kids really enjoyed the opportunity to meet the students.

“We had two girls who stayed with us last year,” he recalled. “They were great; the girls were super nice.”

Raes said that approximately 11 host families are required before the students arrive on July 25, and each family typically brings in two students. The reason for this, he went on to explain, is to facilitate communication and cultural immersion.

“The level of language (comprehension) really varies between the kids…,” he said. “So, they would pair (a more proficient student with one who is less proficient in English) so they had some (strong) language skills and could communicate.”

The host families are neither required nor expected to speak Japanese, but the program’s administrators are seeking families that currently have children of about the same age living at home.

When Raes served as a host for the program last year, he said the two girls he welcomed were around the age of 10 – which is the approximate age for students in the program.

Raes said that, in his experience, each host family typically sees the students in the evenings after 5 p.m. because they’re usually busy with day trips organized by the exchange program. These organizers also arrange to have each student picked up and transported by bus so there’s no need for host families to worry about transportation.

“They come and eat supper, and (my students) brought gifts and their families sent stuff over – it was really nice,” he noted.

When his family had some spare time in the evening, Raes said they watched a few movies, went for a bike ride, and introduced one another to board games including a few the students brought over from Japan.

On Thursday, July 25, the students will meet at A.E. Peacock for a welcoming party to kick-start the visit.

Over the following week these students will visit Wakamow Valley and Crescent Park, stop by Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, try a round of paintball and miniature golf, tour the Western Development Museum and more. The full itinerary is available on the program’s official poster.

Aug. 1 is the last day of the program, and the students depart for Japan on Aug. 2. To celebrate the exchange experience, there will be a sayonara party – which is Japanese for goodbye – and each billet has the option to attend if they wish to do so but participation isn’t considered mandatory.

“My kids really enjoyed being a part of it and meeting and hanging out with the girls,” Raes said. Having these kids be a part of your family is an eye-opening experience which is really cool.”

If you would like to apply as a host family for the upcoming exchange program, the best route is to contact A.E. Peacock’s principal, Tana Arnott, by email at [email protected] as soon as possible before the students arrive on July 25.

For more information about Dobrescu’s student exchange program, visit SpikeAndAi.com.


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