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Tamagawa students make annual visit to DSU

August 18, 2015

Japanese exchange students from Tamagawa University arrived in South Dakota in early August to take part in a two-week program held on the Dakota State University campus in Madison, S.D. This annual student exchange program allows Tamagawa students the opportunity to learn about South Dakota history and culture while also learning English language skills. The students earn school credit for their trip.

This year, 10 Japanese students were welcomed into the homes of their Madison-area host families. During the two-week stay in their home away from home, the students not only conversed with their hosts in English, they were introduced to the Midwestern culture, food and traditions.

Debbie Feistner has opened her home for more than 15 years to host Tamagawa students. “When we host the Japanese students, they become a part of the family,” said Feistner. “They help with chores and meal preparation; they participate in everything we do. We try to give them an American family experience.”

The students spend time with their host families in the evenings and on the weekends. Feistner said that the Japanese students enjoy the outdoors and are in awe of the open spaces of the South Dakota prairie, including being able to see the stars at night. Other activities they partake in as a family include shopping and watching movies. There are two activities the host families attend with the students on the DSU campus, a picnic at the start of the two weeks and Japan night towards the end of their stay.

The time spent with the host family isn’t just a learning experience for the exchange students, it is a learning experience for the host families. Feistner stated, “We learn more about Japan and their culture every year.”

Many exchange students introduced their host families to Japanese culture, language and food. This year, the Tamagawa students even taught an Origami class at the Madison Public Library for area residents.

DSU’s International Programs Director, Jacy Fry, explained some benefits of volunteering to be a host family, “Hosting a Tamagawa student is a great way to expose your family to a new culture! Not only are you meeting new friends from Japan, families in Madison are connecting and building friendships, too.”

During the week, the students spent their days on campus learning the English language and working on assignments to study specific attractions in S.D., like Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore. The students researched the sights and prepared a presentation for their class. At the end of their stay in South Dakota, they will visit the places they researched.

The students didn’t spend all of their time on Dakota State’s campus, they enjoyed sight-seeing at local attractions, including Prairie Village in Madison, and the zoo, Empire Mall and Falls Park in Sioux Falls. They also visited the Laura Ingalls homestead and Pipestone National Monument.

The exchange program ends with a trek across South Dakota to the Black Hills. While there, they will visit the places they studied earlier in their classes at DSU. They will leave from Rapid City to return to Tokyo on August 20.

If interested in learning more about the program, please contact international@dsu.edu.