November Editorial: Creating an Infrastructure for Diversity Through International Exchange

Did you know that in Okinawa there are residents from over 120 countries? 

Figuring on the list are of course well-known countries such as the United States, UK, Taiwan, but there are also people from Albania, Barbados, Lesotho and others countries that you may not have ever heard of before. 

Isn’t it amazing that such diverse people all live in Okinawa? 

The HelloWorld Cultural Exchange program offers the chance to spend short-term homestays at the houses of international residents of Japan: currently, people of 51 different nationalities are registered as Host Families for the program. 

HelloWorld Cultural Exchange allows students to participate in a “study abroad” like experience over a weekend without the need for a passport.

Cooking with ingredients you bought together, interacting with each other, playing board games… There are many ways to enjoy the stay, as each host family is different, but that is exactly what is so special about the program – to be able to spend a “regular day”, rather than a staged, performative cultural exchange. 

Spending time with people from different countries is an opportunity to learn about new cultures – both differences and similarities. The realness of communication, experiencing the joy of expressing oneself in English and at times the frustration of resorting to gestures: this is precisely why this is the perfect learning experience. 

For the kids that have participated, the program has been deeply meaningful: “I was able to experience first-hand a culture I had no idea of”, “I want to put more efforts in learning English”, “I felt confident in being able to get myself across in English”, “I’d love to study abroad someday” were just a few of their voices. 

It is also a precious experience for the Host Families. One time, a family was asked to buy miso and the next day woke up to a miso soup and onigiri breakfast made by their students – a touching moment for the Host Family. 

The HelloWorld Cultural Exchange aims to become an infrastructure for the coexistence of many cultures: our mission is to offer local communities opportunities of international encounter from within themselves.

HelloWorld Co-CEO Hikari Nonaka

About this article

This is an English adaptation of a Japanese article. The original material is part of a monthly editorial curated and published by The Okinawa Times titled たんぽぽのタネ (“Dandelion seeds” ). Starting from October 2023, our Co-CEO Hikari Nonaka will have monthly features on the column through March 2024: the aim is to share with the readers HelloWorld’s core values and mission through an overview of our programs, such as “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” and “WorldClassroom”.