Claire Madsen To Japan for YFU
by Guy Lohoua
Spending time abroad can be one of the most interesting and exciting experiences in someone's life. As an exchange student, one is hosted by a native family and spends time immersing oneself within that culture. One Northside student, Claire Madsen, Adv. 800, was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend her summer this way.
Through the Youth For Understanding (YFU) exchange program Madsen was able to travel to Japan. Youth For Understanding believes that full immersion in a culture and environment different from your own is the best way to attain the skills to thrive in an increasingly multicultural society. YFU allows those that are interested to travel to Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Uruguay, and many more countries around the world.
Once accepted, Madsen attended a two day conference in San Francisco to go over the ground rules and how the students should behave in the countries that they were traveling to. From there, Madsen flew to Kobe, Japan. For six weeks she stayed with a host family and developed a close relationship with her host sister. While in Japan, Madsen attended classes with her host sister, and her curriculum was modified to make it easier for her to transition from an all English speaking classroom to an all Japanese classroom.
Madsen didn’t spend all her time in the classroom; she was able to see the sights of not only Kobe, but Osaka, and Himeji as well. Madsen was able to see Himeji Castle, which is recognized as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture. Though staying in Japan with only strangers sounds scary, Madsen had only positive things to say about the experience. Although she wished she could have interacted with the locals a little bit more, the interactions she did have were all very meaningful to her.
The connections Madsen built with those she met in Japan were extremely strong. When Madsen’s host sister could no longer come to America due to complications with her different host family, Madsen gladly offered her family's home to her host sister, so that she could experience the same things that she allowed Madsen to experience on her trip. Madsen hopes that one day, her host sister can get a chance to experience Madsen’s culture and way of life within the United States.
For those looking for a chance to explore new cultures, Madsen highly recommends checking out YFU.