In Norwin district, Japanese students get a glimpse of life in the U.S.

As Norwin host families waited Monday night for visiting students to arrive from Japan, they talked about their plans to share American culture and landmarks with the visitors.

“Our [exchange student] said she likes gardens, so I’m taking her to Phipps,” sophomore Hayley Lovett said, referring to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.

“We’re going to have a bonfire with s’mores,” Ludwig Kubli said. He and his wife, Marian, planned to take their son, Zak, and their exchange student to Red Robin for a distinctly American hamburger.

The 23 Japanese students were driven from Pittsburgh International Airport and walked into the Norwin High School cafeteria shortly after 9 p.m. They had flown from Seattle to Pittsburgh with a long layover in Chicago and would spend two days in the Norwin School District.

The students are from the Japanese Island of Kyushu and were visiting as part of an exchange program sponsored by the Japan Foundation’s Kakehashi project. Kakehashi means “a bridge connecting two sides with differences,” according to a district news release.

Scott Polen, teacher of advanced placement world history and a former Japanese language teacher at Norwin, said the program would give the Japanese students a chance to experience a day in the life of students in the United States.

On Tuesday, the Japanese students shadowed Norwin High School students for the day, with Norwin Japanese language students accompanying the visitors to help with communication, Mr. Polen said.

On Wednesday, the visitors were to give presentations about their culture to students at Norwin Middle School and the high school.

Tom Iwinski said his oldest son, Jake, a sophomore at Norwin, had used Skype to talk with their exchange student, Koki Fukuda, 17, to learn his interests before he arrived.

Koki said he was surprised that the guardrails were low enough that he could see Seattle as he was riding a bus. In Japan, the walls along roads are so high you can’t see the landscape, he said.

“I want to [experience] America,” he said.

Take Ichinose, 17, said he was surprised by the many lanes of traffic in Seattle. The one thing he wanted to do here, he said, was to taste American sushi because he has heard that American and Japanese sushi are different.

Misono Kadowaki and Yuki Ishikawa stayed with Rosanne and Kurt Novotnak’s family.

Mrs. Novotnak said the girls showed her photos of their homes and families, including their grandparents and pets, in Japan. They were willing to try any American food, she said, and ate the bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, strawberries and mango juice she served.

“They were very excited to ride the school bus,” she added.

Among the places that the host families planned to take the visitors were the inclines on Mount Washington and St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church in North Huntingdon.

Mrs. Novotnak said Mr. Polen also suggested the families take the Japanese students to American grocery stores.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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In Norwin district, Japanese students get a glimpse of life in the U.S.
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