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The Paw Print

Bridging connections across the Pacific: Nirayama visits Poly

Bridging connections across the Pacific: Nirayama visits Poly
Jennifer Godwin-Minto

This November, Poly families opened their homes for two nights to forty students visiting from Nirayama High School near Mishima, Japan.

Since Mishima is a sister city of Pasadena, Poly was introduced to Nirayama through the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee. Ever since 2010, Poly families have hosted Nirayama students and welcomed them to their homes through its Global Initiatives Program (GIP). However, COVID-19 brought this tradition to a halt due to restrictions on overseas travel.

“This [year] is the first time since COVID hit that we’ve been able to connect,” said Rick Caragher, Upper School History teacher and Co-Coordinator of GIP.

In addition to sightseeing at Universal Studios, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Science Center and Griffith Observatory, the Japanese students spent time with their host families — getting to know Pasadena, eating at popular restaurants and playing games.

Freshman Harper Johnson took his guest student, Haru Miyashita, out to Manuela, a restaurant in Downtown LA. “I played Fortnite with him,” Johnson added.

Honami Baba, a student visiting from Nirayama, said that the trip to Pasadena was one of the reasons she chose to go to Nirayama. Eating lunch, talking with the students and seeing class were some of her favorite parts about the visit.

This past summer, sophomore Sophie Ankeles and senior Mimi Ruedaflores rekindled the affiliation between the schools by visiting Mishima and staying with families of Nirayama students.

“What really made it unforgettable was how hospitable they were,” said Ruedaflores. “My time with her family felt very intimate. They treated me like a sibling.”

One of the main goals of GIP’s homestay program is to foster a connection between high schoolers from opposite sides of the world.

“You really discover each other’s fundamental human values and that there’s a lot more similarities than differences,” shared Caragher.

These similarities eased the transition for Nirayama students staying with Poly families.

“We’re all teenagers,” said Ruedaflores. “We were all so eager to learn more about each other. I really witnessed that with how many conversations we had.”

This visit of the Nirayama students paved the way for a continued friendship between the two schools and for future homestays.

“Ultimately we want more global collaboration; we want more students to have global experiences,” said Ruedaflores.

Ankeles agreed, saying, “They’re really great experiences. I think you get so much more out of actually staying with a family than just being a tourist.”

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