Return to Headlines

Elk Grove High School Japanese Exchange Program Celebrates 35 Years

Published May 15, 2024

For 35 years, Elk Grove High School has been providing students with a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The Japanese Exchange Program has been a cornerstone of EGHS’s language program for a long time now. Each year, the school welcomes ten students and two chaperones from Ashidaifu High School and Ashidanfu High School, and EGHS Japanese teacher Ryan Christie takes 8-12 students to Japan. Christie dedicates himself to the program each year because he knows firsthand the impact it has on the students who participate.

“I personally went on year 10 [of the program] as a student of Elk Grove High School and liked it enough to come back and run the show,” Christie said.

For the Japanese students who recently spent time at EGHS, their experience lived up to their expectations.

“It has been great to learn about a culture other than Japan,” Japanese exchange student Seira Inaba said. Although she enjoyed learning about American culture, not everything was as expected, “One of the biggest differences that sticks out to me is how bathrooms in the house have the toilet and the bath in the same room.”

While visiting, students attended classes with the students who were hosting them, and they were able to learn and appreciate some of the differences from high school in Japan.

“I’d love for Japan to use some of the same activities, like how you can interact with friends, in class in Japan,” Japanese exchange student Mitsuki Takano said.

For Inaba, some things she preferred at EGHS, “regarding classes, the atmosphere and way of conducting classes are very different from Japan. I actually think how much I would like to stay at Elk Grove.”

This year, the program received help in the form of a $10,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Los Angeles. This grant goes a long way at a time when international travel has become more challenging to afford.

“The world, in this age, it’s becoming a bit cost-prohibitive,” Christie said. “But because of our sponsors, our grants, and because of the kindness of the host families, we were able to keep this program going for 35 years, and hopefully 35 more years.”

After another successful visit from the students at Ashidaifu and Ashidanfu High Schools, EGHS students will be joining the students they hosted in Japan in June.

“I’m just super happy the kids were able to have an enriching experience,” Christie said. “And I’m hoping the same for my students when we go in June. That they get to know each other, they get to strengthen their friendship with the people that they hosted here, and that they get to meet more friends around the world.”