Los Angeles and Nagoya held an event called the “Student Exchange Program Reunion 2021” online starting on July 30 with over 80 persons in attendance.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation (LANSCA), which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the sister-city relationship in 2019, and the International Exchanges Section of the City of Nagoya. Its purpose was to rekindle the ties between former students and chaperones from the Student Exchange Program as well as participating school officials, host families, and others.
The student exchange program has been conducted for the past 60 years, with each sister city sending four high school students and a chaperone to the other sister city in alternate years during summer vacation. On the Los Angeles side, the exchange program has been financed with funds raised by LANSCA volunteers.
Teruko Weinberg, who developed the idea for the event as chairwoman of LANSCA, explained the reunion’s basic premise: “We had to halt the Student Exchange Program in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last exchange being Los Angeles students who visited Nagoya in 2019. I saw a way to overcome this break in the program by creating a virtual event that would revive the memories and experiences of program alumni and also become a model for a similar annual event in the future. We decided to give this idea an initial try and set it up with the City of Nagoya.”
The event used the Internet to connect participants gathered at Nagoya’s Global Education Center with others joining remotely from home. It was led by two persons as emcees: Megumi Endo of the City of Nagoya and Dickson Perey, chairman of the LANSCA Student Exchange Program.
At the outset Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura came to the Global Education Center and gave his remarks in English, emphasizing the importance of the relationship of friendship between Los Angeles and Nagoya.
He was followed by video messages from Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nina Hachigian and Akira Muto, consul general of Japan in Los Angeles.
Next on the program were alumni of the program, including former chaperones who appeared on screen one by one and talked about their memories of the program as well as their current lives.
Karl Lin, an exchange student from Los Angeles in 2015, recalled how his participation in the program during high school became a turning point in his life: “I am now attending Tokyo University as a Fulbright scholar. When I was in Nagoya, I was disappointed that I couldn’t communicate well with my host family because I spoke no Japanese. With that in mind, I double-majored in science and Japanese at college (in the U.S.) and am now pursuing post-graduate studies in Japan.”
Cindy Martinez, who was a chaperone in charge of four students from Los Angeles in 2019, said, “I acquired a new Japanese family during my stay in Nagoya. When people ask what I like most about Nagoya, I tell them it’s how wonderful all the people are.”
It is expected that the Student Exchange Program will return to its normal format in the summer of 2022 with high school students from Los Angeles traveling to Nagoya.