Hudson families host Japanese college studentsTen students from a university in Japan are staying with families in the Hudson area while they participate an intercultural learning experience at Bethel University in St. Paul.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Ten students from a university in Japan are staying with families in the Hudson area while they participate in an intercultural learning experience at Bethel University in St. Paul.
Hudson resident Lisa Bekemeyer is the director of the program that brings students from the University of Niigata Prefecture to Bethel for nearly a month.
They attend English classes and lectures on American culture at the university; visit museums, theaters and landmark buildings; participate in outdoor activities and an overnight stay at YMCA Camp St. Croix; and experience life in an American home with their host families.
“Awesome,” was Bekemeyer’s response when asked how the program has been going. She said the students and host families are enjoying each other’s company.
As part of their school assignments, the students are required to ask their host families about different aspects of American culture.
“The goal is for them to have a greater understanding, in an authentic way, of American culture,” Bekemeyer said. “They learn it through Americans, and also share their own culture.”
Paul and Ann Martinson are one of the Hudson couples hosting a student.
It has been an exceptionally meaningful experience for Paul, who served in the Army with the American forces that occupied Japan after the end of World War II.
Martinson was 18 years old when he arrived in Japan in 1946.
“The war had just concluded and Yokohama and Tokyo were in complete ruins,” he told a reporter. “I was with the 46th Engineers. We started to clean up the two cities.”
Martinson was put in charge of requisitioning all of the restroom materials for a big Tokyo hospital that was being rebuilt. He had a Japanese secretary and 35 Japanese workers assisting him.
“I got to know these people really well. I’ve thought about these people for years. It’s been 66 years,” he said. He was 19 when he left Japan in 1947.
For Martinson, a retired Lutheran pastor, the young Japanese woman staying with him and Ann, Mayumi Sano, is the embodiment of the Japanese people he met years ago — “considerate, loving, respectful.”
“She is just a wonderful person,” Martinson said.
“We have had deep discussions about our families, Christianity and our faith. We have explained the life and vitality of the church. We have given ourselves to each other. What else is there? Isn’t that the reason of our being?”
This is Bekemeyer’s eighth year running the University of Niigata Prefecture intercultural program at Bethel.
She also is an adjunct instructor in the graduate school at Bethel, teaching education courses on how to teach languages.
Bekemeyer has a bachelor’s degree in French and theology from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in second languages and cultures from the University of Minnesota.
She and her husband, Steve, a teacher in the Roseville, Minn., Area Schools, moved to Hudson seven years ago. They have two sons who attend River Crest Elementary School.
Bekemeyer said that as she’s become better acquainted in Hudson, she’s found more host families here. She also advertised for host families in local churches this year, including her own, Bethel Highlands Lutheran.
In all, 42 students from the University of Niigata Prefecture are participating in the program at Bethel University. A dozen are staying with Wisconsin families (one family from River Falls and one from New Richmond are also hosting a student).
The others are with families in Woodbury and the Bethel University area.
Besides the Martinsons, the Hudsonites hosting students are Coriene and Jon Case-Minners, Jody and Peter Eisch, Terri and Terry Marquardt, Tammy and Bobby Moothedan, Michelle and Andy Myers, Mary Prince, Susan and Mark Shanahan, Jean and Randy Strong, and Mirjam and Colin Sultan.
The students arrived Feb. 18 and will be returning to Japan March 16. They’re here on the break between their freshman and sophomore years in college.
Bekemeyer said she is always looking for good host families for future years. Anyone interested in hosting a Japanese college student next year at this time should send an e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.