The Student Exchange Program is the heart and soul of the sister city's purpose: to offer fun and excitement for students and their families while getting a taste of foreign culture. It is an opportunity to make new friends and explore Japanese values, as well as provide students from our sister city with a better understanding of our own culture and what it means to be American. Since 1971, more than 120 young people have participated in the program.
The exchange lasts for two to three weeks, from late-July to mid-August. Each student stays with two different host families for about half the home stay period.
UPDATE - Due to social restrictions and travel hindrances in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Sister Cities have opted to POSTPONE the 2020 exchange, but not cancel it. This will have the practical effect of pushing everything back one year to maintain the turn order of students visiting each city. There will be no visit during 2020, and the program will continue in 2021 with a visit from Tondabayashi students to Bethlehem.
During even-numbered years, Bethlehem students travel to Tondabayashi, which is near the city of Osaka. All expenses, except airfare and spending money, are covered by the city of Tondabayashi and their host families. Activities are provided at no cost to the students. Upcoming years include 2022, 2024, and 2026.
During odd-numbered years, families in Bethlehem host students from Tondabayashi. Host families are encouraged to include the visiting students in all their regular, summertime activities. Group activities are also planned for the visiting students, and host families and other community members are welcome to participate in most of these as well. Upcoming years include 2021, 2023, and 2025.
High school students in the Bethlehem Area School District - public, charter, or private - are eligible to apply.