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Japan trip set for HHS students

Andrea Williamson

Hartselle Enquirer

Two Hartselle High School students will be embarking on a trip across the world to Japan next month through the Daikin Homestay program.

Sarah Hand and Virginia Rieger, both rising seniors, were selected to represent the school through a rigorous application process involving an application, essay and interview. They will be among thirteen high school students from East Lawrence, Lawrence County, West Morgan, Austin, Decatur, Priceville and Hartselle high schools to attend the trip on July 16-26.

Rieger said that she made the decision to apply for the program many years ago.

“As long as I can remember, I have wanted to go to Japan, so I have wanted to go on this Daikin trip since I first heard about it years ago,” Rieger said. “Also, in the last couple of years, friends or people I knew have participated, and it looked like they were having such a good time and learning so much.”

For Hand, the decision to apply came much later when HHS announced the application deadline earlier this year.

“I had heard about the trip from other students who went in past years,” Hand said “but I hadn’t really thought about applying, myself. When I heard them announce it this year, I realized that I would like to go, and my mom encouraged me to apply.”

Once the students arrive in Japan, they will visit the Golden Pavilion, a Buddhist shrine in Tokyo, on their first day. The students’ will then each be placed in a host home, and their host families will immerse them in the culture through activities that they individually select. For Hand, staying with a host family is what excites her the most.

“I’m excited about meeting my host family and getting to interact with them,” Hand said. “From what past participants have told me, they will become like your family away from home.”

Rieger, who participated in Hartselle’s exchange program to Germany last year, said that she looks forward to another opportunity to experience other cultures.

“I love to travel, and this is such a unique opportunity,” Rieger said. “You see such a different way of life while staying with someone who lives there, rather than just being a tourist. It is fun to see what their life is really like.”

Amongst all of the excitement, though, the students are also prepared to face some challenges. Hand said that, although she has been out of the country a couple of times, she is still nervous about being away from her family. Rieger, though, says that she is more concerned about the language barrier.

“If I am nervous about anything, it is that my homestay family won’t have any members of the family that speak English,” Rieger said. “I am prepared for that, but it does make me nervous.”

To help them face these challenges, though, the Daikin employees have been offering classes twice per month to the students. The students are required to write a research paper on Japanese culture that they share with the other students. The students also receive lessons about Japanese language, dance, culture and etiquette, which is especially significant in Japanese culture.

“We have learned that the Japanese people are extremely polite,” Hand said. “They value manners more than most Americans. Even though their cities are very crowded, they always take time to apologize when they bump into someone.”

The students will be accompanied by Daikin employees and two local teachers, including Hartselle High School science teacher Shanna Coan. The teachers also went through an application process to be selected for the trip.

Based on the past experiences of the participants, the students are looking forward to their adventure in Japan.

“We have been communicating with some of the students who went last year,” Hand said, “and they say that it is a trip of a lifetime. I know it will be fun.”

Sarah Hand
Sarah Hand
Virginia Reiger, far right
Virginia Reiger, far right