MODESTO -- Most teens in the United States have traveled somewhere out of state at some point in their lives, but how many can say that they got to go overseas?
Eighteen-year old Amanda Deigan, a 2012 graduate of Beyer High School, can proudly say that she did, and loved every minute of the experience. She took part in a foreign exchange program that would send her and several other local teens to Japan over the course of Spring Break and learn more about its culture.
Amanda is definitely acquainted with travel as a former member of the Beyer Band and Colorguard, and as a softball player for Beyer and a traveling team. She faced the challenge of going out of the country for the first time, but yet had a bold statement to follow: "I was nervous at first, but I soon forgot about my life in America and wanted to stay (in Japan)."
Amanda went to Japan to recconnect with a friend from the Beyer Band's annual Japanese Home Stay event, where band members host Japanese students for about a week.
"I got really close to my host student," she said, "and he really wanted me to go visit him in Japan. I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so that's why I went."
After the plane ride, Amanda and her classmates touched down in Kyoto, where they would stay with their host families for the duration of the trip. Amanda was hosted by the family of the exchange student whom she hosted for Beyer Band's annual Japanese Exchange Student event. About her host family, Amanda said, "they were very friendly and made me feel like I was a member of their own family."
She revealed that she became sick with a cold during her stay, and that "the mom always took my temperature and gave me cough drops," which Amanda certainly appreciated and which drew her closer to her host family. During Amanda's stay, the family celebrated her birthday with a surprise party, complete with cake and presents.
Amanda's group traveled around Kyoto during their stay and "went to local and national landmarks around the city, as well as shrines," Amanda recalls.
While in Kyoto, she also got to experience Japan's unique weather in the form of heavy rainfall.
"I loved the rain, and over there it was like a downpour that lasted for hours," she said.
Amanda enjoyed Japan's people and culture.
"I definitely liked (the Japanese) culture, and the people were friendly," she said. "They also take their education much more seriously; our group got to sit in on a class at a school and none of the students talked out of turn or were rude to the teacher.
"Compared to the United States, I think people in Japan are much more polite and considerate of others than here."
Concerning the other students she went to Kyoto with, Amanda said how "some were immature, but everyone was fun to be with. Others got homesick, but most of us never wanted to come back home."
Amanda said that going to Japan was an experience that she'll never forget. When asked if she would go back again, she gave a big smile and said "Oh yeah."
To anyone who wants to go on a foreign exchange trip, Amanda advises that "if you have a fear of flying, don't let that get to you, and get closer to the people who you're traveling with."
Although Amanda knows that it will be a long time before she goes to Japan again, she still keeps in contact with her Japanese friends via Skype and keeps the desire alive to return to the Land of the Rising Sun once again.
Geoffrey Jacobs is a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.