Haddonfield students are completely immersed in Japanese culture during Haddonfield Japan Exchange program

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The Haddonfield Japan Exchange was formed in 2006 and has since been hosting a program that allows Haddonfield students to go to Japan every other year, while students from Japan visit Haddonfield during the off years. The program has continued to evolve, and this year’s trip saw the inclusion of a few initiatives that have greatly increased the education and enjoyment for the students.

“Every time we have gone to Japan with the students, it has been amazing,” Bill Brown, director of HJE, said. “With each year, though, we have been able to integrate technology more to make the trip even better. This year, the students were able to write daily journal entries that were sent back to us in Haddonfield. It’s a great way to see what the kids are doing and what we need to do more of in the future.”

It isn’t the first time the students have been asked to keep journals, but it’s one of the first times those entries have been able to be shared so quickly. With the constant communication, Brown feels the HJE will be able to understand what works the best for the students.

“It is very important to us that we know what the students enjoy,” Brown said. “This trip is supposed to be educational, but it’s also supposed to be fun. We want to get as much feedback while the students are over there as we can, so we can make the trip better each time we go.”

Between the journals and the post-trip survey, Brown has been able to narrow down some of the most significant aspects of the trip, which he says has surprised him.

“I would have expected the students to have said that the excursions and tours were their favorite part of the program, but many of them have said that spending time with their host families was the best part of the trip,” Brown said. “That is one of the unique aspects of our program that you don’t see in some of the other similar ones.”

Every student going to Japan as part of the HJE program is assigned an individual host family. In many similar programs, there are a few students assigned to each host family.

“We want to completely immerse our students in the culture,” Brown said. “When you put a few students together with one host family, they can lean on each other and don’t have to participate with the host family as much. So, to ensure that the students have to be a part of the culture, we only assign one student to each host family.”

The tactic seems to be working, as Brown sees almost all-positive feedback from the students.

“The students always come back with nothing but great things to say about Japan and the culture,” Brown said. “We’re trying to show them that despite the very different cultures, the values are basically the same.”

Next summer, Haddonfield will again play host to Japanese students. To learn more about the HJE, visit www.facebook.com/HaddonfieldJapanExchange.