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Summer exchange program seeking Amherst-area host families for Japanese high school students

Only about eight families have signed on so far to take the 15 teens who will be studying English at Amherst College for three weeks, said Diane Caraker of Amherst, a teacher and guide for PeopleLink, the California nonprofit arranging the trip. The students attend the Doshisha International School in Kyoto, a sister school to Amherst College.

PeopleLink arranges four exchanges each year, Caraker said. The last session in March involved 100 students in Amherst, Greenfield and Deerfield. But this time finding hosts is difficult because of summer vacations.

“I’ve had lots of people tell me they’d love to do it but the timing is bad,” Caraker said Tuesday.

The students must be dropped off at Amherst College each day at 9 a.m. and picked up at 4 p.m., she said.

They study English at the college in the morning, and then take field trips in the afternoon to places such as Six Flags, Look Park and Tanglewood.

The students bring their own spending money, and hosts receive a stipend of $20 to $30 a day for their meals. Hosts are also invited to go along on the trips, she said.

Caraker, who has hosted students affiliated with the program for six years, said it has been a rewarding experience for her family.

“It’s a really cool thing,” she said. “It’s a good cultural exchange experience and the kids are well-behaved.” She said her 12-year-old daughter Becky has particularly enjoyed staying in touch with the family’s guests after the students have returned home. Caraker said that 90 percent of the families who participate want to host again.

Still short seven families with just a week and a half before the students arrive, Caraker is nervous, but keeping her fingers crossed. She’s been putting up fliers and trying to spread the word any way she can.

“We’ll keep plugging away,” she said. “There’s never been a time when the kids have arrived and we there’s aren’t enough families for them.”

For more information, contact Caraker at 413-687-8833 or at dianec711@comcast.net.

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