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Local student spends summer in Japan

By Heather Graves

ASHWAUBENON – Not many high school students can say they spent their summer vacation in Japan, but 17-year-old Ashwaubenon High School senior Mackenzie Lindow is no ordinary student and her summer vacation was anything but ordinary.

Lindow was born and raised in Ashwaubenon, but traveling has always been a staple for her and her family.

“Being from such a travel-oriented family has made me learn to love seeing the world,” Lindow said. “Learning about new cultures, new customs and new languages has always been one of my passions.”

Being an active member of the 4-H and 4-H International, Lindow has the opportunity to participate in a variety of different programs and activities.

Last year in summer, Lindow hosted a Japanese exchange student for a month through 4-H International.

“Since then, I have been getting more and more interested in what 4-H has to offer,” Lindow said.

This year it was Lindow’s turn to be the exchange student.

Along with students from all over the country through the 4-H International program, Lindow spent a month in Japan with a host family.

“I stayed in the Gunma Prefecture, a smaller mountain city, four hours away from Tokyo,” she said.

Lindow said for her, this trip was about learning, and that traveling to Japan was a dream come true.

“I chose Japan for many reasons,” she said. “The culture, the food and the history have always been interesting to me. I’ve just always had Japan in the back of my mind. But I think the main reason why I wanted to go (to Japan) was because of how different it is from America – how they dress, how they eat, even how they go to the bathroom is different from what we are used to.”

Lindow said the trip gave her the opportunity to live in a completely new environment where she got to appreciate cultural differences.

“This trip made it clear to me how much I love to travel,” she said.

Looking back, Lindow said the experience that stands out the most from her time in Japan was the Hippo Family Club, a cultural club her host family was involved in.

“We attended these club meetings almost three times a week,” Lindow said. “We would dance, sing, talk and speak in different languages.”

Lindow said the Hippo Club is similar to 4-H International in regards to traveling.

“Everyone in the club has the opportunity, like 4-H, to travel to a country of interest,” Lindow said. “Members of all ages could travel for different lengths of time as a method of teaching about other cultures. I was amazed when a 7-year-old member of my club went to Taiwan for a week while I was there. My host sister had gone to Australia for a year through Hippo and my other host sister left to spend a year in Canada while I was staying with her.”

She said the club helped her realize the world she once thought was impossible to conquer is a little smaller.

“This club truly moved me,” Lindow said. “They saw learning a new language in a completely different way, not as studying a foreign language, but experiencing a human language. Everyday practice and interest in the culture allowed each member to get a firm grasp on another culture even before they left Japan.”

The opportunity 4-H International provided Lindow is one she said will forever hold a special place in her heart.

“I am so glad I went on this trip,” she said. “It has taught me about myself, the world and where I want to be in it. Thanks for 4-H International, my future is exciting and filled with lots of air miles.”

What that future holds for Lindow, she’s not yet sure, but it will definitely involve traveling.

“I plan to continue traveling and seeing the rest of the world,” she said.

Self-dubbed an artist, Lindow said she loves to paint and draw.

Lindow is the president of the Ashwaubenon High School Art Club and entered a sail in the Arts in Schools competition at this summer’s Tall Ships Festival.

She said what makes 4-H International unique is it provides its members with the opportunity to travel.

“4-H members who have a passion for learning and travel can sign up to visit other states within our country or experience another culture overseas,” Lindow said. “While in Japan, I met a 4-H delegate from Washington who was staying in the same city and we became close friends during my stay.”

For more information on 4-H International, visit wi4hinternational.org.

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