Teens travel to Japan on cultural exchange

A group of three adults and eight students travelled from Montevallo to Echizen, Japan July 17-27. Pictured starting in back from left to right: Tour guide for Ono City, Mayor Hollie Cost, Eli Cost, Alex Barnett, Cebastian Cardozo, Devon Cartwell, Vinny Chiaramonte, Sydney Selman, Kelli Bennitt, Nicholas Caine, Mary Purvis and two Japanese students. (Contributed photo)

A group of three adults and eight students traveled from Montevallo to Echizen, Japan July 17-27. Pictured starting in back from left to right: Tour guide for Ono City, Mayor Hollie Cost, Eli Cost, Alex Barnett, Cebastian Cardozo, Devon Cartwell, Vinny Chiaramonte, Sydney Selman, Kelli Bennitt, Nicholas Caine, Mary Purvis and two Japanese students. (Contributed photo)

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost, two adult chaperones and eight Montevallo students recently returned from a 10-day trip to Echizen, Japan, Montevallo’s sister city. The group left July 17 and returned July 28 and experienced a range of cultural experiences while they were abroad.

In addition to participating in home stays with Japanese host families, the students went white water rafting, visited a Buddhist temple, learned calligraphy and meditation, participated in a Japanese “Taiko” drum lesson, toured a pottery village, went to a Japanese paper village, hiked to a castle and more.

“It was an incredible experience, and the children got so much out of it,” Cost said. “I was really impressed with the students that they tried all of the different foods. They grew up a lot on the trip.”

Cost said the goal of the biennial trip, which began in 2009, is to immerse Montevallo students in Japanese culture and to give them an appreciation and understanding of the similarities and differences between Japanese and American culture. The students on this year’s trip ranged from age 12 to 16.

The eight students who went on the trip were selected after submitting an application and going through a series of interviews. They qualified based on being residents of Montevallo and showing commitment to a Japanese cultural exchange, Cost said.

The students paid for most of the cost of their trip, but they supplemented the price of plane tickets with fundraisers.

Before leaving, they each took about three months of Japanese lessons, though they had an interpreter with them every day of the trip.

Devin Cartwell, 16, said his favorite part was living with his host family, who actually spoke English.

“I really enjoyed being able to speak with them about what they do, and being able to tell them how things are done in America, and being able to see their daily lives,” he said.

“It was a really great experience that I wish other people could experience for themselves. It’s a really beautiful land, and the people there are really nice.”