Junior Ambassador Program

  1. How many chaperones go with the students?

    The student/chaperone ration is 5:1. Chaperones are either committee members or educators from the Bloomington/Normal community.

  2. How many students go on the trip?

    We need a minimum of 4 students for the trip. Maximum number of students is 15.

  3. What do the students do in Japan?

    The trip is approximately 2 weeks long in June. Activities include: visiting Asahikawa junior high and high schools; visiting local industries; meeting the mayor; participating in cultural events, outdoor activities, and hands on activities (wood carving, flower arranging, sushi making, judo, etc.).

  4. What is included in the cost?

    The cost includes round trip airfare from Bloomington to Hokkaido, Japan; overnight hotel accommodation, if necessary, when traveling to/from Japan; ground transportation throughout the trip; most meals; costs associated with activities or admittance fee; t-shirt; and pre-trip training materials.

  5. What do the pre-departure orientation sessions include?

    Up to 5 pre-trip meetings will be held which will give the students and chaperones a chance to know each other. Japanese language lessons (greetings, self-introduction, simple phrases) are provided as well as Japanese cultural lessons (do and don'ts, etc.). Students will also learn some history about Bloomington/Normal, McLean County, Illinois and the USA as well as Asahikawa, Japan. Students will also prepare a presentation, usually song or dance, to be performed at the Welcome Party; this is a tradition in our exchange program.

  6. Are students allowed to communicate with parents during travel?

    Yes, if needed. Students will call parents to notify them of safe arrival and when they are departing from Asahikawa. A chaperone will communicate regularly with the trip coordinator in Bloomington/Normal. That person will be in touch with parents if concerns arise. The chaperones will also send periodic updates through emails or Facebook posts.

  7. Where do the students stay?

    Students will stay with a host family. Usually the host family has other children. It is likely that the host family will have limited English.

  8. What if a student gets sick?

    If a student is sick, the chaperone and an Asahikawa committee member will accompany the student to a doctor. The student or committee will need to pay out of pocket and then submit receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement.

High School Exchange Program

  1. Who is eligible for this program?

    This program is funded by the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal. To be eligible for this program the student must currently be a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior and live in School District 87 or Unit 5. Students do not have to attend a district 87 or unit 5 school, only live in the district. Current seniors are not eligible.

  2. When will the student leave for Japan? When will the student return?

    The student will be in Asahikawa for 10 months departing in early August and returning in mid-June. The exchange student is not allowed to return early for graduation. The student must stay until mid-June to complete the 10 month program.

  3. What is included in this scholarship?

    The scholarship award includes transportation to and from Japan, living costs, high school tuition and fees, school uniform, and a monthly stipend.

  4. How are the Japanese high school credits arranged to meet local requirements?

    After the selection and before the departure, the student and parents are responsible to meet a high school counselor to discuss what subjects the student should take in Japan to transfer for graduation. It depends on the school and the counselor. Previous exchange students could transfer all or most credits to local high schools and were able to graduate with their classmates.

  5. What arrangements are made for medical care?

    The student should continue to be covered under the parent(s) health insurance here in the U.S. Parents should contact the insurance company to make sure that the student has medical coverage while he/she is out of the country. (Sometimes it requires a special rider.) Asahikawa sister cities committee will buy the national health insurance for the student. Usually a patient will pay 30% of cost. Medical costs are much less in Japan than in the U.S. You may be reimbursed from your American insurance company. The Asahikawa sister cities committee will take the student to an English speaking doctor.

  6. What training will the student receive before leaving for Japan?

    The student is required to take Japanese language lessons once or twice a week with homework assigned. The student will also study Japanese customs and culture as well as studying about Bloomington and Normal.

  7. What is the student’s obligation to the Sister Cities Committee while in Japan and after returning?

    While in Asahikawa the student is expected to be a great ambassador for our community being respectful, polite, friendly, active, and diligent in studying especially Japanese language. The student will probably be asked to make speeches in special events, and help with special projects. The student is required to send monthly reports to the Bloomington-Normal Committee without delay. After returning to Bloomington/Normal, the student will also be expected to assist the committee in promoting the exchange program by attending informational meetings, making public presentations, participating in public relations activities, writing a final report, etc.

  8. Where will the student stay while in Asahikawa?

    The student will stay with three or four different host families. Usually the first host family will have at least one member who speaks some English.

  9. How does the student get to school?

    Asahikawa schools do not provide school buses. Depending on where the host family lives and the season, the student may go by bicycle or ride a city bus or a train to school. A bicycle or bus/train passes will be supplied by Asahikawa Sister City Committee.

  10. Can family visit the student while in Japan?

    It is suggested that if parents plan to visit, it should be done in or after spring break, end of March. This is to help the student fully transition and acclimate. The family should notify the sister cities committees. The committee discourages boyfriends and girlfriends from visiting.