Smyrna students leaving for Japan exchange program with sister city

Smyrna students last traveled to its sister city Zama, Japan, in 2015. (Photo submitted)

Twenty high school students from Smyrna are getting ready for an educational trip of a lifetime, going over 6,000 miles away for an exchange program.

The Town of Smyrna is sending the teens over to Japan as part of the Sister City program for two weeks. Smyrna partnered up with Zama, Japan when Nissan first came to Middle Tennessee over 20 years ago.

Smyrna High School senior Samantha Jones packed snacks for her host family.

“There’s five different flavors of Oreos, there’s some Mac and Cheese,” said Jones. “I’m super excited to just go there and see how they live and like how their houses are different from ours and how their food is different from ours, and the way that they give gifts and everything. I’m just so, so excited.”

It will be the first time Jones has left the U.S. Jones said her brother participated in the program a few years ago.

“While we’re there they’re showing us around their town and their country, and when they come here, we show them around,” said Fran Dunne, who will be a chaperone on the trip.

Dunne said the city, fundraisers and parents pay for the trip, each putting up a third of the cost.

“We’ll go from Nashville to Chicago, and then it’s a 13-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo,” said Dunne.

The last time a group Smyrna went overseas was in 2015.

“They will have a welcoming group there waiting for us to greet us, and it’s really exciting to see who they’re going to have,” said Dunne, who went on the last trip to Japan.

Jones is reuniting with the Japanese family who sent their daughter to Jones’ home in Smyrna last year.

“We took her to Walmart, and she was like, ‘That’s really big.’ And when I took her to my high school, she was like ‘That’s really big,’” said Jones about the cultural and societal differences between Smyrna and Zama.

Jones said she will occupy her time on the long flight completing her summer assignments.

The students and the organizers of the Sister City exchange program said it’s a great opportunity for them to represent their city and learn about another city and culture. Dunne said it’s a program she believes every city should have to open cultural and educational doors.

The group leaves from Nashville International Airport Saturday morning. You have to be a Smyrna resident or go to a Smyrna school to qualify for the program. You can find information on the program and the application process. You can also find details on the Facebook page.

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