Tara Bone, contributing writer

Another year means more family adventures! Experiences await in 2017 that will teach kids — and maybe even parents — a few life lessons. Some adventures are planned, while others are unexpected. Last summer our family had an unexpected, and unforgettable, experience. It was, as one of my sons calls it, “the most awesome, best thing we did all summer.” Maybe it will be an adventure you’ll consider, too.

It all started on a lovely July morning when my husband announced we had the opportunity to host an exchange student from Japan. He said the student would arrive in a few days if we chose to host. I was stunned. I calmly asked a lot of questions and got a lot of answers. We discussed the possibility as a family, all agreed to go for it and completed the application process that night.

In a few days we met our exchange student, a 14-year-old boy from Tokyo, who became an immediate part of our family. He eagerly experienced life with us: the Logan aquatic center, Cache County Fair, family reunions, Bear Lake Raspberry Shakes, soccer games, redneck slides and even family chores. He did it all, and as we experienced it with him, even small things like stargazing took on greater meaning. Our family realized, again, that we live in a beautiful place.

He opened our world to us and shared his own world, too. He cooked new foods and brought unique gifts that highlighted Japanese culture. We were in awe of the art, language and pictures he shared of his life in a bustling city across the world. My boys recognized and appreciated the differences in our cultures, and saw many similarities. They laughed together and even played music together.

We’ll never forget his bright smile, or what we learned with him. Bringing someone into our home was a big decision, but it was a priceless experience to open our home and hearts to a life-long friend. In three short weeks we learned that in this big world, we humans are more alike than we are different.

Hosting an exchange student
Sharon Elggren, president of Premium International Exchange and Nacel Utah Coordinator, said she’s seen lives change for both visiting students and host families.  “These programs strengthen world ties and create greater cultural understanding and bonding across the world,” Sharon said.  “Visiting students gain confidence and families gain life-long friends.”

How families can get involved
Premium International Exchange (PIE) works with organizations in Japan to provide opportunities for Japanese students, age 12 -18, to experience life in the United States.  Families can apply to become a host family (three-to-four-week commitment). Youth can apply for team counselor positions at welcome camps. Visit or contact Sharon at (801) 540-1402.

Nacel Open Door High School Student Exchange places foreign exchange students from around the world with volunteer American host families.
Apply to be a host family for the 2017-2018 school year by March 1 . Apply online at

Contact Sharon at or call (801) 540-1402 for more information.