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Exchange student embraces South Dakota farm life

August 24, 2014

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — A month ago, Ryota Kojima had very little experience with dairy cattle and farm life. But that didn’t stop the 12-year-old from leading a cow during the 4-H and Open Class Dairy Show at the Brown County Fair on the afternoon of Aug. 14.

Ryota, an exchange student from Japan, participated in the county fair as part of a month-long visit to the United States arranged through the LABO Japanese 4-H exchange program. The 12-year-old, who is from a city outside of Tokyo, is staying with the Frey family, whose dairy cows have been shown at the Brown County Fair for 34 years, the Aberdeen American News (http://bit.ly/1qr7oyv ) reported.

The Frey family includes parents Mike and Sara and their two children, 14-year-old Dylan and 11-year-old Colin. The family’s dairy operation in Claremont includes about 220 dairy cattle. Mike is the leader of the Friendly Fellows and Daisies 4-H club in Claremont, and Dylan and Colin entered a number of livestock and non-livestock entries this week at the fair.

Ryota arrived in South Dakota on July 26. This is his first trip to the United States. Along with showing a Frey dairy cow at the fair, Ryota also submitted vegetables and origami. Mike said that 4-H is a great activity for any kid to be involved in because of the friendships and valuable lessons in responsibility and hard work learned through the program.

Ryota loves sports and enjoys feeding the bottle calves on the Frey’s dairy farm. Prior to their stay at the fair this week, Mike said the family had been playing table tennis nearly every night.

The Freys have been enjoying the exchange, and Mike said that Ryota has adjusted well and hasn’t been too homesick despite his great distance from home. Ryota is the Freys’ first exchange student.

Ryota communicates with the family mostly through a translator, but the main focus of the exchange is to provide an opportunity for him to improve his English skills.

South Dakota 4-H International Exchange coordinator Alan Lambert said the language barrier is often a concern for families at the beginning of the exchange, but said that, usually, by the end of the month-long visit, communication is no longer a big issue.

Lambert said the exchange is more of a social and cultural exchange rather than an academic one, and said the experience shines a light on different parts of the world and typically makes the host families and exchange students more tolerant and open-minded about other cultures.

“It’s a chance for people to travel the world without leaving home,” Lambert said.

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

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