210 Japanese students come back to BYU

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Students at Nishiyamato Gakuen, a Japanese school, simply wanted to experience American culture but soon realized BYU was the place for them.

Nishiyamato Gakuen, one of Japan’s most prestigious junior high schools, participates in on- and off-campus activities from Oct. 23 to 29. Many organizations, including BYU and Selnate International School, are involved in organizing activities for these students.

Administrators at Selnate discovered Nishiyamato Gakuen had some issues coordinating home family programs in California, so in 2007 they convinced Nishiyamato to come to Utah, and the students haven’t skipped a year since. Selnate facilitates communication, monitors quality and the integrity between two schools and provides interpreters and host families. When the program moved to Provo, BYU began helping organize the activities through Selnate.

Sharon Meyers, a program administrator for BYU Conferences and Workshops, said one of the main reasons the school sends its students back to BYU every year is because of the excellent experiences they have interacting with the BYU student mentors.

“Though the BYU student mentors are helpful in running the program, their primary value is as extremely positive and wholesome role models for the boys,” she said. “The parents are understandably concerned about the kind of American influences their sons will be exposed to during this trip. Even if they have little understanding of the LDS Church, they do understand the BYU students’ high standard of conduct, which makes these parents feel very comfortable sending their children here and allowing them to stay in host family homes.”

Because of  Nishiyamato Gakuen’s emphasis in sciences and global awareness, BYU organized a physics demonstration called “Sounds to Astound” and a chemistry demonstration put on by BYU professor Roger Harrison for its activities. The Division of Continuing Education hires BYU students and TESOL teachers to coordinate English activities, give tours of campus and participate in various activities.

Scott Bullock, a junior majoring in information systems from Greenwood Village, Colo., felt love and appreciation for the Japanese people while he served in Japan as a LDS missionary. Last year, he returned the favor by helping the Japanese students get to know BYU.

“It was very fun,” he said. “When they were leaving, the Japanese teacher shouted something in Japanese three times, and students bowed three times to me. Even though I didn’t understand, I know they were showing appreciation to me. Japanese people are very respectful. It made me want to be more appreciative to people, but I probably won’t bow to people.”

Berd Wise, a junior majoring in business management from Las Vegas, Nev., worked for the program last year because he wanted to speak Japanese and interact with Japanese people.

“I liked how it was very relaxing environment,” he said. “I also liked how nice people were. I wish I could continue working with them.”

Tracy Rogers, a director of Selnate, said many of the host families are still in contact with students.

“Not only host families open their home, they open their hearts to these students,” he said. “Parents in Japan are concerned about their children, but host families here are very generous and problems are quite minimal.”

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