Exchange year in Japan provides global perspective

AFS exchange students Molly Fleischer (left) and Emoni Brown-Bey.

Heights High senior Emoni Brown-Bey returned from an 11-month American Field Service (AFS) foreign exchange experience in Japan in mid-February, and sophomore Molly Fleischer left for Japan in early March.

Brown-Bey’s exchange year was “an amazing experience,” she said, as she returns to Heights High for a final semester before graduating.

During Brown-Bey's time in Japan, she lived with a host family in a small rural community and attended high school. She learned to speak Japanese, make sushi, ride a public train and budget her own money. She saw Mount Fuji, visited Tokyo Disneyland, hiked in the mountains and toured historic Shinto shrines and beautiful gardens.

While many things are different in Japan, she said she also experienced many of the universal themes in human life—family love, teenage friends, food and art.

Her host family comprised a mother, father, teenage brother and sister, and seven dogs. “My family was wonderful and helped me so much,” said Brown-Bey.

She found school life in Japan very different from her experiences here. Students wore uniforms, and part of their responsibility was to clean the school at the end of the day. Also, students stayed in one classroom while teachers moved to each classroom.

While she enjoyed her time in Japan, Brown-Bey said she is happy to be home. These days, she is busy with schoolwork, family and friends. “I am very grateful to my family, AFS and the school for supporting me in this journey,” she said. “I came home with a deep love and appreciation for my country and city.”

In the fall, Brown-Bey will attend the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she plans to study engineering.

Fleischer was excited to embark on her own cultural adventure in Japan—a place that has fascinated her for years. She said she had been looking forward to participating in an AFS exchange since middle school. “I am really excited about being in a new community and speaking a new language,” said Fleischer. Her host family, who lives in a small rural town, comprises a mother, father, 12-year-old child and three adult children who live on their own.

For information about hosting an AFS student or sending a student on an AFS exchange, contact Carla Bailey at

Cathan Bricker

Cathan Bricker is the communications administrative assistant for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 10:34 AM, 03.24.2015