Franklin students will visit community’s sister city of Kuji

Next month, with the help of local businesses and organizations, Franklin students will travel to Japan to learn about culture, language and history.

Ten students from Franklin Community High School and four Franklin Community Middle School students will travel to Franklin’s sister city of Kuji, Japan, during their fall break.

This is the first time in recent years that Franklin students will visit Kuji, although Kuji students regularly travel to Franklin, said Greg Moore, Franklin Rotary Club member and coordinator of the trip.

A total of 31 students applied for the trip. The group was whittled to 10 by a selection committee. Students were chosen based on academic success, participation in foreign language classes and participation in extracurricular activities, Superintendent David Clendening said. Also, students who have a relative in Franklin Rotary or were a host family for past Kuji students in the past received extra points, Clendening said.

The cost to travel to Kuji is $3,000 per student, but half of the travel expenses were covered by grants and donations, Moore said. A Rotary grant of $7,500 was what allowed Franklin to finally send students to Kuji, Moore said.

In the past, the school district and Rotary wanted to send students to Japan but didn’t have the money, Moore said. The city of Franklin, Grace United Methodist Church and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Climate Control each donated $1,500 toward the cost of the trip. The Franklin school district offered to pay for the two chaperons.

“It was always an interest, but there wasn’t a sizable grant until the Rotary came along,” Moore said.

Students will be able to see similarities between Kuji and Franklin as well as cultural differences, Clendening said. The experience will strengthen the relationship between Kuji and Franklin, he said.

Before they go, the six high school and four middle school students will take a cultural immersion class, where they will learn about the culture, etiquette, language of Japan and what to pack.

“It kind of just hit me the other day that we’re going to Japan — halfway across the world — in less than a month,” eighth-grader Chris Mahin said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

He and the other three middle school students are enrolled in language classes, but Japanese is not offered until high school. But they are excited to compare what they’ve learned in their foreign language classes to the customs and traditions in Japan, the students said.

“It’s going to be fun to compare the cultures,” Chris said. “I’m taking Spanish, and that would be good to see the differences and similarities between the two.”

Eighth-grader Abby Titara said she is excited to see how Japanese people put on plays in their theaters.

“I’ve always heard that the theater areas are really cool, like how they put on the plays and shows, because I really love plays here. So seeing how they do it would be really awesome,” Abby said.

“I really wanted to go because Washington is like an every eighth-grade trip, but for an eighth-grader to go to Japan, it seemed pretty special.”

Students will be given a crash course on the language to learn the basics like directions, how to ask where the bathroom is and how to greet one another, Moore said.

The students will fly out of Indiana on Oct. 8. After spending a weekend sightseeing in Tokyo, the students will head to Kuji, a city of about 36,000 on the northeastern coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu.

For eighth-grader Addie Mudd, this will be her first airplane flight.

Once the students arrive in Kuji, they will be expected to share about Franklin and the U.S. through a welcome dinner presentation, Moore said. He added he hopes the Franklin students will be make the presentation in Japanese.

Of the eight nights that they’ll spend in Japan, the students will stay with host families for three nights while in Kuji, Moore said.

Two Franklin College graduates currently teach English classes in Kuji and will serve as tour guides for the Franklin students once they arrive, Moore said. Franklin College professors and employees have suggested activities the students should do or monuments they should see while overseas, Moore said.

“I don’t think I ever thought it would be possible (to go to Japan),” eighth-grader Emma Dillon said.

Students visiting Kuji

The following students will travel to Franklin’s sister city of Kuji, Japan, from Oct. 8 to 17:

From Franklin Community Middle School:

Emma Dillon

Chris Mahin

Addie Mudd

Abby Titara

From Franklin Community High School:

Dylan Bailey

Nina Biasi

Sara Brown

Elijah Smith

Devon Vogeler

Anna Woods