Chosen to represent Long Beach as goodwill ambassadors, a trio of two students and one teacher embarked Wednesday for Yokkaichi, Japan.
Yokkaichi is a Sister City for Long Beach, and the two cities have been hosting three-week cultural exchanges for students and teachers for nearly 50 years.
Alyssa Krug, 15, is going into her junior year of studying at CAMS (California Academy of Math and Science) in Long Beach. She said she applied to participate in the Sister City cultural exchange because the trip is an opportunity to learn about a different culture and visit her grandmother’s native country.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the culture is different from here,” Krug said. “I’m excited about the food because it is so different than what we have here, and I want to see if they make the same things my grandma makes for us or if it is different. It will be really interesting to stay with host families and see how families live in the city.”
Although Krug doesn’t speak Japanese, she said her grandmother helped her learn some basics before the trip. Krug said that although she will be in a different part of the country than where her grandmother was born, she hopes to meet with some of her distant relatives.
For Poly High School student Sean Rickter, 16, a trip to Japan is an opportunity for him to learn about Japanese culture and improve is foreign language skills. He has been learning Japanese in the classroom for three years.
“I can read, write and speak quite a bit of Japanese, but I am not fluent,” he said. “I am really excited about meeting different people and meeting my host families and exercising my language for three weeks.”
The two students and the accompanying teacher, Jordan High School’s Melinda Ramsey, have been working together to purchase gifts for their host families in Japan as well as put together a presentation they will share with Yokkaichi officials and students.
Ramsey, 44, who teaches English and is a certified International Baccalaureate instructor, said she and the students have been learning about Japanese culture and they have prepared a 30-minute presentation about Long Beach. It will include information about the city’s school system, the Port of Long Beach and what Southern Californians do for recreation. She said the presentation includes pictures of herself, Krug and Rickter engaged in everyday activities.
“Long Beach is so diverse and so welcoming and we want to share the wonders of Long Beach with Japan and hope they come and visit,” Ramsey said. “It is just really great to have two nations be able to be so friendly and welcoming. We are going into this very open-minded and we are looking forward to blending into the culture.”
When she returns from the trip, Ramsey said she plans to share her experience in Japan with her students at Jordan. Additionally, Krug and Rickter have been encouraged to share their stories about Yokkaichi, which is located in central Japan, with their Long Beach peers.
The Long Beach-Yokkaichi Sister City Association pays all transportation expenses, food and lodging for the students and teacher.
Exchanges alternate each year, so next year students from Japan will visit Long Beach.