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The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

Sister Cities Committee gives multiple students a new cultural opportunity

In the 1960s, Bloomington-Normal and Asahikawa, Japan became “sister cities” because of their similar economies and differing cultures.

Today, they also share exchange students.

The current chairman of the sister cities organization is an English teacher here at Normal West, Mr. Jeffrey Kroesch.

As chairman, Kroesch works with people in Asahikawa to organize students from Japan coming here and going to Japan for an exchange year. There are also community events and a celebration every five years to bring the Bloomington Normal and Asahikawa communities together.

Sana Ohashi is this year’s foreign exchange student through the Bloomington-Normal Japan Sister Cities Program. (Makinzee Boyer)

“Being an exchange student and learning about a foreign culture just broadens who you are as a person,” Kroesch notes about the benefits of being in the program.

“Immersing yourself in a different culture can help your foreign language skills and help build friendships with others from different backgrounds,” he adds.

Kroesch became passionate about this program when he participated in it as a teenager.

“Just connecting with all those different cultures in our exchange program really changed my life,” Kroesch said about his experiences as an exchange student in Japan.

This year, Normal West has an exchange student, Sana Ohashi, who has been here all school year. 

Ohashi mentions that school is pretty similar between the two countries, but that her Japan school did not have a homeroom.

When asked about what people would enjoy about being an exchange student, Ohashi said, “It depends on the person and what they like.”

In addition to Ohashi being here from Japan, Sophomore Normal West student, Clara Stegemann, is thrilled to travel to Asahikawa, Japan, as an American Foreign exchange during the 2024-2025 school

Sophomore Clara Stegemann is set to head to Japan during the 2024-2025 school year. (Eden Husarik)


Thanks to the Sister Cities Committee, Clara was given the opportunity to live in Asahikawa, Japan From August, 2024-May, 2025. 

“I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture in general,” She added, “being fully immersed in a culture like that, and learning how other cultures are different from my own.” 

This experience allows Clara to immerse herself into a culture, language, and way of life she is very passionate about. “It’s an experience that can help you grow as a person and learn more about yourself,” Stegemann explained. 

Normal West wishes the best travel experience, and hopes Clara makes unforgettable memories on her journey!

For more information about this trip and the committee you can visit their website

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