HARROGATE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Thirty Japanese students are making East Tennessee their temporary home.
The group arrived at Lincoln Memorial University Monday.
"I waited for three years to come the United States, and my dream came true, so I'm really excited," said Fuyuka Kiyonaga.
Kiyonaga and her class just arrived from Tokyo for a seven-week nontraditional study abroad program, the LMU-Kanto program. It's a trip that just weeks ago seemed impossible.
"It's a very trying time in Japan, and a lot of us were surprised that we were able to come through with the trip," said Curt Klinghoffer, the LMU-Kanto Program director.
Though the Kanto International School in Tokyo was spared on March 11, students shared their stories of the massive 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that followed.
"It was moving sideways, and then upside down, it's like a small roller coaster just when you are standing up," said Kiyonaga.
While Tokyo shut down, relatives and friends were afflicted more severely. "My grandparents live in a northern place and they don't have electricity or water running," said Kiyonaga.
"I hurt...seeing people die," said Shota Yoshida, another Kanto student.
The brave high school students left Japan on schedule to spend seven weeks at LMU campus.
"It gives them immersion in American culture, and they learn how to speak English, and they learn a lot about Appalachia," said Klinghoffer.
"History and American culture," said Ayaka Kabayashi of what she looks forward to studying. "I study English very hard and learn to make some friends."
The students form the next class of a partnership between the two schools and countries lasting more than 30 years.
Klinghoffer says in 30 years, the schools have been through all kinds of experiences together. But this trip, in the wake of the tragedy, will be a special one to remember.
Students say they're ready to experience the America that's been helping back home.
"Other countries are supporting so that's really thankful for Japan," said Kiyonaga.
The group will spend time in East Tennessee, and take a trip to Washington D.C. as part of their studies. They return to Tokyo in early May.
HARROGATE, Tenn. (WVLT)- They're here to learn about American culture, while studying our language.
But for one group of Japanese students, on a seven week stay in East Tennessee, thoughts of their earthquake and tsunami damaged homeland, makes the trip's timing unique.
Several dozen high school sophomores from Kanto International High School, arrived at Lincoln Memorial University's Harrogate campus late last night.
The group began traveling to East Tennessee back in 1979, in hopes of getting an American style education.
But the disaster's impact weighs heavily on their minds. When the large quake hit, the students were in class in Japan, prepping for the trip to America.
Naoko Yamane, a teacher with the group said, "Encourage them and then try to support the disaster area. So we wanted to help them but we didn't' have the money to support them.
Right now we are thinking of how we can support them, what we can do."
Thankfully, the part of Japan the students live in, received little damage. The group makes this trip twice a year, and will visit area high schools as part of their experience.
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