||Photo (L-R): Monroe Rotary President Don Lieto, Monroe to Hofu student Stephanie Fortner, Hofu to Monroe students Misako Kudo, Masanori Kono, Kohei Iwamoto, Reo Tanaka, Machiko Sado, Monroe to Hofu students Emily Mehregan and Savannah Shiflet.
Stephanie Fortner, Emily Mehregan and Savannah Shiflet, three of five Monroe International Friendship Association (MIFA) exchange students who returned this week from a visit to Monroe's Sister City Hofu, Japan were present along with Reo Tanaka, Machiko Sado, Misako Kudo, Masanori Kono and Kohei Iwamoto, all young people visiting Monroe until August 17 from Hofu, Japan as part of the MIFA program.
Monroe Rotary played an integral part in establishing the Sister City student exchange program between the City of Monroe and the City of Hofu. The exchange program has become an annual summer event.
Students on both sides spend three weeks in the host nation and live with two different host families during thee xchange. This allows the students to see the host country through the daily lives of two different families, and provides a richer cultural experience.
Importantly for both sets of students, the Monroe students spent a week visiting with the Japanese students in Japan (just prior to the Japanese students leaving for the U.S.). Both groups again spent a week together, this time in Monroe, before the Japanese students returned home. This provided two unique opportunities for both sets of exchange students to speak with eachother, share daily activities with eachother and share cultural observations and ideas, inaddition to spending time with their individual host families.
Monroe Rotarians Susan and David Mehregan, parents of exchange student and SMCC Interact member Emily Mehregan, served as a host family.
According to Stephanie Fortner, "My experience in Hofu, Japan was amazing. I had the chance to do many traditional Japanese cultures such as tea ceremonies, kendo, and calligraphy. I also ate a variety of foods such as edamame (soy beans), rice at every meal, and an entire fish. My most treasured memories have come from staying with my host families though. My stay with both the Tosaka's and the Sakurai's were truly wonderful and I will never forget them. I would definitely go again when the chance comes to me, but maybe next time I'll know a little more Japanese".
Excerpt from the Monroe Bank & Trust "Insider" newsletter, August, 2010.