Their first time hosting an exchange student has officially come to a close, but with the bonds of friendship formed between the family and their guest still evident, “I would have kept her here in a heartbeat,” said her host mother.
The Kabetso family of Canfield: Dawn and John, and their daughters Karsen and Kaelin, welcomed Sana Takabayashi, a student participating in the Labo program, now in its 50th year of service.
Traveling as part of a group of 115 students and their chaperones, eight of whom joined families in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Takabayashi joined the Kabetso family upon her arrival in Columbus on July 23, departing on Aug. 18.
Spending their full summer vacation with “real American families” for the purpose of expanding their English language skills and experiencing life in an American home, the students within the program immerse themselves in the American way of life during their monthlong stay.
Sponsored by 4-H, the Labo program is open to all families, requiring of them only a bed and three meals a day, and leaving them to decide on family activities. The entire visiting group however, gathered at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game on July 28.
According to Dawn Kabetso, her daughters, both of whom attend Canfield Village Middle School, had a blast getting to know Takabayashi, visiting Wild Water Kingdom, playing kickball, and riding paddle boats in Mill Creek Park.
Although Takabayashi wrote letters home and received a few as well, Kabetso said she didn’t appear at all homesick. Referring to her as a very responsible kid, Kabetso said Takabayashi helped with household chores, often asking, “May I help?”
In addition, on an evening with a few of the other exchange students, Kabetso and a few other host families were treated to a meal cooked by the students.
Sharing that there was very little language barrier, Kabetso said her daughters instead helped Takabayashi with pronunciation, saying, “The girls worked with her the whole time she was here on 'purple'.”
“She was so sweet,” said Kabetso, of Takabayashi, who turned 13 in May, and whom Kabetso referred to as a fantastic volleyball player. Sharing that her guest had arrived wanting to try an American hamburger, she was an adventurous eater although not a fan of sweets, according to Kabetso.
Saying that her sister is a coordinator who hosted a student last year and had a very good experience, Kabetso added that her own family's experience was a positive one, and that her daughters miss their “sister.” It’s so quiet here —- clearly it’s totally different right now,” she said.