Student exchanges homes for foreign voyage

The chance to travel to foreign countries has a tendency to stir the imagination of history, sunsets, exotic food and culture.

The chance to travel to foreign countries has a tendency to stir the imagination of history, sunsets, exotic food and culture. For one Ponoka youth, the dream is going to become a reality.

Seventeen-year-old Pete Davis will fly to Japan for a seven-week exchange program from June 14 to Aug. 9. Davis is willing to tackle the 12-hour flight from Vancouver to Narita in hopes of personal growth.

“I’m looking forward to building my confidence,” he stated.

It is part of the Labo Exchange Program, which has people from Japan travel overseas and vice-versa. Davis was a host family for a Japanese youth two years ago. Now he will have the chance to do the same thing.

He will stay at two different host family homes; three weeks at one and the last four in a different location, although he is not sure of the town. For the first three weeks, Davis will undertake an intense language course to teach him Japanese. The final weeks will involve living with a family in a suburban area in southern Japan.

He has been doing his research though; Labo gives successful applicants an orientation package on cultural differences and one thing he found interesting is the importance of gift giving.

“Gifts are an everyday thing there,” he explained.

Davis has collected a variety of Canadian knick-knacks such as pins, stuffed moose and other items. “Stuff that basically represent us.”

His biggest worry is losing his passport. “The thing that shocked me is that if you lose your passport, your aren’t allowed out of the country.”

The exchange program also does not allow contact with parents and children, as there is a fear it will ruin the experience. The goal is for exchange students to build their confidence and to enjoy their stay. Davis does feel it might make him more homesick. “We can write letters though.”

Davis looks forward to the experience and hopes to pass it on when he returns.

“I really want to gather my knowledge from all my travels and share it,” he stated.

The young traveller has also been to Italy with St. Augustine School. He has the opportunity to become an intern for a year at the Labo Exchange program in Japan if he would like, but his goal is to go to university in Arizona where his grandparents live.

He has also received requests from family and friends to bring gifts back from Japan and intends to buy his mother Japanese silk.

By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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