Japan trip creates bonds
An exchange programme to Japan is helping form bonds before the trip has even begun.
Rachael Machado, 15, and Sheridan Marris, 17, are two of 58 young New Zealanders funded to travel to Japan in December as part of the Kizuna Project.
Kizuna means bond in Japanese and the aim is to show how Japan is recovering from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The project will bring more than 9000 students from 41 countries to Japan for 10 days, where they will visit disaster-affected areas and take part in volunteer activities.
They will also spend some time billeted with Japanese families.
Rachael and Sheridan are looking forward to learning more about Japanese culture.
Both are also looking forward to meeting new people and have already found friendship with each other.
Sheridan says that when she found out another Whangarei girl had also been chosen for the exchange, she was determined to meet her.
The two soon discovered they live only a few streets apart in Kamo.
They did not know each other previously as they go to different schools - Sheridan to Kamo High and Rachael to Whangarei Girls' High.
"At least I now know someone who's going," Sheridan says. "It will make it a little bit easier."
Sheridan heard about the programme because her grandfather is involved with student exchanges but this is her first exchange.
She is interested in a career as a flight attendant or in hospitality, so she says it will be great to travel.
Rachael is looking forward to seeing how the recovery is progressing.
"Because I've heard about the earthquake and tsunami - everyone has - it will be interesting to experience what's going on there first hand."
She is interested in studying languages, particularly German, and hopes to also go to Germany on an exchange one day.
Neither student has learnt Japanese before and they are frantically trying to learn enough of the language to get by on the trip.
They are also looking at the best ways to record their experiences and share them with other students when they get back.
Sheridan plans to film the trip and edit together a short presentation.
Rachael says a number of teachers at her school get their year 9 students to study Japan, so she will be running a few talks to classes next year as well as a school presentation.