Woehlers are host to Japanese exchange student

This article submitted by Erin Aagesen on 7/28/99.

Japanese student Saeko Yasunaga recently had her first experience with horseback riding, tacos, and small-town life. The 17-year-old Japanese girl came to the United States as an exchange student through the International Lions Club.

Yasunga has been staying with Kelli and Tim Woehler on their hobby farm in rural Belgrade for the past two weeks. "She's wonderful with the kids," said Kelli, referring to her two young children, Whitney and Cole. "As soon as we picked her up from the airport I knew this was going to work." Saeko has been teaching them all OragamiŠthe art of paper foldingŠand sewing.

The Whalers have taken Yasunga to see many local sights such as Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, a parade in Freeport, and a Little Crow ski show. They also hope to bring her to the State Fair, Valleyfair, the Mall of America, and possibly on a trip to see Mount Rushmore. She is currently spending a week touring with other exchange students in the Mankato area.

Saeko cites many differences between Japan and the United States. She was amazed at how open the scenery is in this area and said that it was very beautiful. Her hometown of Fukuoka, which is located on the southern island of Japan, has a population of about five million.

Yasunaga also noticed differences in the nature of the people. She was unaccustomed to the way Americans kiss their children. She stated that everyone here is friendly as well and enjoyed seeing the variety of hair colors and differences in facial features.

In Japan, Saeko is a high school student studying to be a fashion designer. She enjoys sewing, shopping, listening to music, and watching horror movies. Her mother and grandmother own and run a coffee shop, and her father is a tuxedo salesman. Naoto, her 20-year-old brother, is studying movie production.

She studied English for only one year before coming to the United States, but the Woehlers say that she is coming along very well. Kelli was impressed, saying, "It's truly amazing how much English she learned in just her first week here."

Saeko arrived on July 15 and will be staying with the Woehlers for six weeks. She returns to Japan around Aug. 27.

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