Gulliver Prep recently hosted six Japanese students as part of the annual exchange program, “Wings of Youth,” a collaborative effort between the City of Miami and its sister city, Kagoshima, Japan. Chiho Cotton, World Languages Faculty and Japanese teacher, serves as a committee member for sister city relations between Miami and Kagoshima, and several of her students have been able to participate in the program.
Read on to learn more about this experience, as told by Natalia Nuila ’25, Gianna Chaney ’25, and Sophie Goldner ’25.
Why did you want to be a host for a Japanese peer?
I wanted to be a host for a Japanese student because I had previously been an exchange student in Japan and had an amazing experience. Being able to be immersed in a brand new culture was an experience that I can forever cherish. I wanted the opportunity to return this favor to someone else. My host family was so welcoming and really showed me just how different cultures can be.
Overall, what did you think of this experience?
I was nervous at first because I was worried about not being able to communicate with my host student. However, after spending some time with my student we both warmed up to each other and were able to communicate with ease. I also learned a lot about Japanese cooking, because I made Japanese foods with my host student. This experience has made me love Japanese culture more and I wish to return soon.
How do you think this exchange program is beneficial to you as a host student, as well as your visiting peer?
As a host family, my family and I got to share our culture with our host student and learn about her culture all in the same experience. My peers and I had the opportunity to learn about school life and norms in her culture, while she got to experience ours.
Why do you think it’s important for you to experience cultures outside of your own?
It’s very important to experience different cultures because it allows you to grow as a person and become more open minded. By experiencing a new culture, you are able to see things in different perspectives. This can become a very useful tool in life in general. Becoming more open-minded and being able to see different perspectives can help in so many different ways. Additionally, I think it’s important to experience different cultures because it allows you to learn about new things that you didn’t even know existed. For example, when I went to Kagoshima as an exchange student, I learned so much about how different the culture is there to the one here in America.
Gulliver offers a wide variety of opportunities for students from academics to athletics and beyond, including unique opportunities like participating in this exchange program. As a student at Gulliver, what have you discovered about yourself that you may not have otherwise discovered, or maybe that you weren’t expecting?
As a student at Gulliver, I have personally discovered my love for the Japanese language. As a child, I was always interested in Japanese culture. However, I could have never imagined that I would be able to study the culture and language at my school. Not many schools offer Japanese as a language class. Therefore, I am grateful that I am able to attend a school like Gulliver that offers these amazing opportunities that I otherwise would not have.
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