An international student-exchange program's language and culture camp for 20 high school-age Japanese students is scheduled Aug. 15 to 25 at New Song Community Church, 13873 National Road SW in Etna Township.
"Our organization has not had any language camps for several years," said Marlene Holtz, the central Ohio representative for the American Scandinavian Student Exchange. "In the past, the students have been from multiple countries, predominately Asian. I guess there was an interest of Japanese students wanting to come to the United States, just to help with their language (skills)."
Holtz said the students would arrive Aug. 15 and attend a welcome dinner Aug. 16 in an ASSE member's home. They are slated to begin learning more about the English language and American culture Aug. 17.
"Sometimes speaking English can be a greater challenge for (Japanese students) than it is for students from other countries; English is spoken in many European countries," Holtz said. "This will help their transition. All have had at least four years of English prior to coming. They speak some English but this will help them hone their abilities."
The students will be ages 15 to 18 and all will have student visas that would allow them to attend a U.S. high school for one year.
Holtz said the ASSE is asking host families to volunteer to house the students and transport them. The students would have to apply to a high school near the family hosting them and be accepted.
"They have to have their own bed but they can share a room as long as it's with a youth within four years of their age and the same sex," Holtz said. "We work with local high schools to find places for them and the high schools have to approve for them to come.
"They come with their own insurance and own spending money, so that's a big help for families."
No foreign-language skills are required.
Holtz said families interested in hosting an exchange student can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Host family applications are available on the ASSE website: asse.com.
Holtz said she has hosted three international students: two from Japan and one from Taiwan.
"We still keep in contact with them," Holtz said. "They do come back to visit sometimes, so it can be a long-lasting friendship. You learn about each other and about different countries, which promotes better understanding.
"A lot of things they know about us they learned from the media. (The exchange) helps us to understand that we're all people, though our cultures may be different -- not better, just different."
For example, Holtz said, when she sees tsunamis in Japan, she thinks about the two girls who lived with her and she pays more attention to what's happening in that part of the world.
"It makes the world a smaller place," she said.
The ASSE was founded in Sweden in 1938 by the Swedish National Ministry of Education, according to the organization's website.
At the time, the organization promoted exchanges between Germany and Sweden and it expanded in the 1940s to include several European countries, according to the website. It did not become affiliated with the U.S. Department of State until 1976, and the ASSE became registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States at that time, according to the website.