Every year, the Sister Cities of Midland and Handa, Japan participate in a student exchange program. For three weeks of every summer, three students travel more than 6,000 miles to stay with their host families, experiencing the highlights of local culture while the families act as ambassadors of their respective cities and countries.
The cities rotate hosting duties, and this year it’s Midland’s turn to welcome the Japanese students into the community.
"This is a great way to promote Midland and also bring other cultures here," says John Metcalf, acting chair of the Sister City Committee. "We’re living in the 21st century. It’s a global society. The more we are comfortable with that, the better it is for us, both economically and culturally."
Midland and Handa became Sister Cities in 1981, when The Dow Chemical Company was considering building a plant in the Japanese city, and they’ve participated in the student exchange program ever since. Approximately 50 students have taken part in the program.
Becoming a host family is a kind of stay-cation, says Metcalf, and a low-barrier one, at that. Families can experience another culture, and all from the comfort of their home. Host families typically try and show students Midland itself and the state as a whole, often taking them on trips to Mackinac Island or baseball games in Detroit--though there is no required programming.
"Often our hosts meet these kids and go on to develop unique relationships," Metcalf says. "We have people still communicating with students they hosted a dozen years ago."
The student exchange program is currently accepting applications now through May 17. A total of 10 host families will be selected, nine of which will be guaranteed hosts, and the tenth serving as a back-up option, should one of the families become unable to host. The three students will each rotate through three host families over the course of three weeks.
The program begins July 22 and runs through August 12.
To apply, visit the student exchange program online.
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