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January 29, 2014

Foreign exchange students learn American culture

Program diversifies student body

Branford — Branford High School currently has two female students from Asia who are here to complete a one year academic requirement, according to BHS social studies teacher Dan Taylor. Nan Kokanutphong is from Bangkok, Thailand and Yu-ri Chiba is from Sendai which is Northern Japan in her hometown of Ishinomaki. An interesting fact about Yu-ri is her mother is Chinese and father is Japanese. She is fluent in both languages and very familiar with both cultures, and has formally studied Korean language and culture. Her grandparents live in Shanghai, China.

“Part of their academic requirements is to study in an English speaking country and they both chose the United States,” said Taylor. “They had the option of choosing a month or a year stay and both of them chose a one year stay.”

Taylor said they’re part of an exchange program that matches willing hosts with students abroad to be immersed in the full cultural experience. Taylor describes the girls as being charming, demure and pleasant to be around.

“They’re both very adaptable and the kids are very intrigued by them,” said Taylor.  

Their host, Brenda Herrin, whose mother was Japanese, said they are very well liked by all and she is very happy to have them.

The girls didn’t know each other prior to coming to America, but since arriving in Branford and living together with Herrin, they’ve become good friends.

Herrin said it all came about when one of her friends heard there was a Japanese exchange student coming to the area that needed a place to stay, so she agreed to take her in. Her friend knew someone who could get the process rolling.

“They set me up right quick,” Herrin said, laughing.

Aside from the speedy process, she originally was only going to have Yu-ri stay with her. Herrin explained that Nan was already in the U.S. and she was only supposed to keep her for a weekend until another home was found. Herrin thought it best the girls stay together, so she decided to keep Nan too.

“I thought it would be easier to have two girls, so they would have someone to bond with,” said Herrin.

Yu-ri came to her about two weeks after school started in the fall and Nan came the day after.

At home, Herrin made up a lot of 3 X 5 index cards and attached them to various objects to help the girls learn their names in English. She wrote the English word of the object on the card and at the top left of the card, the word is written in Japanese and in the lower right corner, the word is in Thai. Another learning tool is that when the girls watch television, they use the closed caption option to practice their English.

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