A group of Corona del Mar High School students left this morning for Okazaki, Japan as part of a 29-year-old exchange program.
“I’m really excited,” said Thomas Robertson, one of six students participating in the 10-day program. “I’m looking forward to the food. I’m looking forward to meting my friend, Yuta.”
Incoming freshman applied for the program last winter and will live with host families during their visit. In the fall, the Japanese students will visit Newport Beach; read about last year’s students here.
Student Jenny Conde said she couldn’t wait to meet her host and learn about Japanese culture.
“I want to see the life of a Japanese student,” she said. “I’m expecting something very different than I’m used to. I’m sure I’ll eat a lot of rice.”
Rayna Schonwit said her father visits Japan frequently, fueling her interest in the program.
“I haven’t been out of the country,” she said. “I have always wanted to go to Japan.”
Several of the students had studied medieval Japanese culture as part of an academic pentathlon team two years ago, Conde said. Thomas had been interested in Japan and received a Rosetta Stone Japanese language kit for Christmas, said his mother, Kati Robertson.
“He already had a passion,” she said. “This trip is such a good fit for him.”
Students hugged their parents and posed for photos outside the Central Library at 8 a.m. today, then climbed into two shuttle vans headed to the airport.
The Newport Balboa Rotary Club and the Newport Beach Sister City Association fund the program, said Connie Skibba of the Newport Beach Sister City Association.
Rotary Club President A.J. Thielen attended the send-off.
“It’s exciting to help fund such an important program,” he said.
Some of the students already were thinking about the future.
“I really want to show them around Newport Beach in September,” Jenny said. “Disneyland — all the great things.”