The Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City Committee is assembling host families for a junior high school exchange group that will visit town from March 15-25. A group of 17 will travel from Tsuruta, Japan, staying about a week in Hood River as part of the sister city's annual exchange activities. The group of eight girls, six boys and two adults will spend the week touring the area, taking in local culture, spending time with host families and attending classes at Wy'east and Hood River middle schools.
"We currently need host families for all six boys and two girls," said Scott Murahashi, sister city host family coordinator. "Students are usually grouped in pairs, and ideally host families have children of about the same age so the exchange students can go to school and attend classes with them."
By junior high school, students in Tsuruta have been studying English for several years. Although groups tend to be shy when they arrive in Hood River and first meet their host families, by the time they leave, the students and host families have formed friendships that are remembered for years to come.
For some, hosting exchange students from Tsuruta has inspired a trip to Japan through the sister city program. Some are even reunited with their friends and are hosted by the same students who stayed with them in Hood River.
Students come with their own money for group activities and shopping, so other than a little extra food on the table and the price of an extra ticket or two to something fun, hosting doesn't cost families a lot of money. Murahashi, whose family has hosted several exchange students, said such a unique experience is definitely worth a little extra effort and energy.
This year Hood River and Tsuruta celebrate their 35th year as sister cities. The relationship is one of the longest and most active in the world-wide program. Each year Tsuruta sends two student groups to Hood River - a junior high group in the spring and a high school group in the fall.
As part of the anniversary, a group of adults from Tsuruta will visit Hood River over the July 4 holiday. Hood River also regularly sends student and adult groups to Tsuruta. Two trips to Japan are in the works for 2012: a student trip in late spring or early summer and an adult trip later in the summer or autumn.