Japanese students from BSM’s sister school visit

Rachel Zierden and Ava Azadegan

Hannah Scherer, Staff Writer

Japanese students from our sister school in Japan, Kaisei Gakuin, returned to Benilde-St. Margaret’s for the fourth consecutive year. On Thursday, September 20th, the neatly uniformed students filed into the hallways, awaiting a day of exploration and cultural experience at BSM.

These students do not only spend a day at Benilde-St.Margaret’s when they make their annual trip to Minnesota. Along with experiences with their host families, regular visits to the St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict campuses, Mall of America, and the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center occupy their week-long visit. “We took her to our games at school because she loved to watch us play sports, and we took her to the Mall of America,” sophomore Johnny Mack said.

The itinerary has not changed much over the years, but sometimes includes other special events. “They had the opportunity to meet Walter Mondale, the [past] US ambassador of Japan. And he has always been very gracious to the people of Japan so he had the opportunity to meet them and welcome them,” Ms. Guzmán, Diversity Coordinator and Spanish Teacher, said.

This tradition began four years ago when Dr. Sue Skinner, BSM, was informed of Kaisei Gakuin’s Benedictine heritage, which was very similar to that of BSM. “A past BSM parent called me four years ago and wanted to know if BSM would be interested in connecting with the students from Kasei,” Dr. Skinner said.

But, before Dr. Skinner could make definite arrangements, Ms. Guzmán had to plan and organize the event. “One of our alums who went to St. Ben’s, her dad got very involved [with Kasei] and the principal [of Kasei] contacted a nun at St. Ben’s… looking to create an exchange program between the two high schools,” Ms. Guzmán said.

The BSM administration wants these students to gain several experiences during their visit to Minnesota. “I hope that both the BSM students and the Kaisei students gain an appreciation of each other. There are differences in our cultures, but we share the same commitment to education and to making the world a better place,” Dr. Skinner said.

Several BSM students voiced their hopes that a visit to Japan will be made with BSM students, following Ms. Guzmán’s trip two years ago and Dr. Skinner’s upcoming journey this summer. “Even though we don’t teach Japanese here, it gives our students the opportunity to experience the culture and learn about how important this relationship is. Especially with the state of Minnesota and our being the third major state to exchange students with Japan,” Ms. Guzmán said.