Japanese exchange students head home after whirlwind week in Midcoast

Posted:  Friday, January 12, 2018 - 4:00pm

CAMDEN – Japanese exchange students said goodbye to their host families in Camden and Rockport with a send-off lobster dinner on Tuesday, January 9, at Camden-Rockport Middle School. The exchange students had enjoyed a week of learning and enjoying the amenities of the Midcoast.

Ben Cooke was this year's host coordinator. Cooke said there were 11 host families this year, 10 for students and one for a chaperone.

"Two chaperones come every year and sometimes they stay with host families and sometimes they stay in a hotel," he said. "We're not sure if this is the 20th or 21st year we've been doing this because there was one year it didn't happen."

Cooke said whichever it is, it still marks two decades of the Japanese Exchange Program.

"It would be nice to track down some of the first people who went on the exchange and see how much the program has changed,” he said.

Cooke said both students and hosts fill out profiles and they try to match similarities in the profile for good matches.

"Similar family dynamics, similar interests," he said. "If someone has a cat allergy, and we did have one this year, they don't go to a house that has a cat. One of our exchange students is a keen swimmer and one of our hosts goes swimming literally every day, so they house together."

Jamie Stone, CRMS principal, said they have very good documentation of the years the exchange took place of families and students, but she was not sure how far back it goes.

"I got to host this year," she said. "My daughter is in eighth grade and it was nice to see it from that perspective."

Stone said the students had a dramatic entry into the United States.

"The students had flown to New York," she said. "They were supposed to spend the night in New York, but instead we made arrangements for them to get off the plane in New York and get right on a plane for Portland."

Stone said after Portland the students arrived in Camden at 3 a.m.

"They were so happy and cheery and warm and welcoming," she said. "And our host families were amazing. They came out and braved the cold and it was really special. They got to spend their first day as a snow day because the storm hit."

The exchange students missed the Circus Day at the school held on Wednesday, but they did get to study circus arts with the sixth grade.

Stone said the students enjoyed a lobster dinner for their send off dinner held at the CRMS cafeteria on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning they boarded a bus at 7 a.m. to begin their journey home.

The Camden-Rockport Middle School has participated in a cultural exchange program with sister schools in Aomori Prefecture in Hirakawa, Japan.