Highfields host exchange students
Visitors immediately feel welcomed when approaching the Highfield residence in Powhatan. Southern hospitality, a phrase used to describe the generalization that residents of the South are particularly warm and welcoming to visitors, radiates from the home.
Earl and Doris Highfield have hosted a number of foreign exchange students. During the last 20 years, students from New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Australia, China, Spain, Brazil and Serbia have been welcomed with open arms.
They were first introduced to the program after a mutual friend's daughter visited Japan as an exchange student. Through the friend, they were introduced to an exchange student coordinator in 1990 and received their first exchange student from New Zealand.
"We just decided to try it," Doris said. "Once the student arrived, we enjoyed learning about the different culture and it was nice to have a child in the house."
Over the years, the exchange students have brought joy and culture to the Highfield home. "Our only challenge has been communication barriers," said Earl when asked about the difficulties. "And students from Germany had a lot different culture than us, but there were no difficulties."
Since August 15, 2009, Earl and Doris have been hosting an exchange student from Japan named Chinatsu Kadokura. Born and raised in Kanagawa, part of the Greater Tokyo Area, she grew up in the world's most populous metropolitan area with a population of 35,676,000.
When asked about the transition between the large metropolitan area compared to Powhatan and its population of 50, Kadokura responded, "There are several differences, but everyone here is so friendly and has humor. You do not find that in Japan."
"People here are more affectionate," Kadokura said. "America is so friendly."
Kadokura proclaimed that she has had a wonderful time with her host family. "Earl and Doris have been great," she said. "Earl is very funny, and Doris has been very motherly."
Although she is enjoying spending time with the Highfields and enjoys attending Hillcrest High School, Kadokura admits that her favorite experience has been food.
"American food is so delicious. I love hamburgers, apple pie and banana pudding," she admitted.
"Since my arrival, I have gained almost 30 pounds and my mother keeps informing me I need to lose weight," Kadokura said as she laughed.
In the future, Kadokura would like to attend college in Japan and become a doctor.
Over the years, both Earl and Doris have enjoyed many adventures with their exchange students. They have traveled to places such as Dallas, New York and Philadelphia and have enjoyed numerous memorable experiences.
"My most memorable moment was watching two of our exchange students from Austria play basketball," Doris said. "They were something to watch."
"I always enjoyed teaching the city boys how to work on a farm," Earl replied.
Preparations have already been made by the Highfields for next year.
"This is our last year to host a foreign exchange student," Doris said sadly. "We have decided to spend our time traveling, but it is going to be so lonely in the house without a student."
Doris grew up in Walnut Ridge. Throughout her years, she has served as a school teacher for Oxford, Pa., Walnut Ridge School, Clover Bend School, Cave City School and Sloan-Hendrix. She also served 34 years at the Department of Human Services for Lawrence County.
Earl grew up in Pennsylvania and served as Lake Charles Superintendent for 35 years.
To anyone who is interested in hosting an exchange student Doris advises, "You don't get paid and you have to furnish them shelter, but most importantly you must provide them with lots of love."
The Highfields have volunteered for several exchange student organizations such as the AWUSA Organization, Into Adventures and Youth From Understanding. For more information or if interested in hosting an exchange student, contact Doris at 870-878-6688.