DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - Early Thursday morning, a group of thirteen high school seniors across Morgan and Lawrence Counties took off for Japan. The trip is all expenses paid. Daikin Industries in Decatur is making the trip possible. A Daikin spokesperson says it's one of many ways the company is giving back to the community.
"Congratulations, today is your day. You're off to great places, you're off and away. You have brains in your head and you have feet in your shoes, and you will steer yourself in any direction you choose."
A send-off luncheon for the 13 students and two teachers who are bound for Japan early Thursday morning, thanks to Daikin Industries. This is the 20th year Daikin has sponsored the Homestay Trip, some 242 high school students and 38 teachers in all thus far. Each will live with a host family while in Japan.
This sharing of cultures is designed to enrich their lives.
"It promotes an inter-cultural understanding between the peoples of Japan and America, and more specifically Morgan County, Alabama," explains Daikin spokesperson Forrest Keith.
"You are well representing us today as you move forward through this journey. And we look forward to you coming back safe but yet a different person in the experiences you will have there," State Representative Ken Johnson told the students.
Each student had to formally apply, write an essay and go through several interviews before being chosen for the trip.
"I want to learn about the culture, try the food, learn about the students at the different schools. how they differ from us and also learn about my family and their language and how they interact with each other and spend time together," says Austin High School senior Ivy Watkins.
"I'm going to be swimming in the Sea of Japan. My host family is taking me to swim in the Sea of Japan," says Priceville High School senior Whitney Clark.
It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, made possible by a company that prides itself on giving something back to its community.
The group will spend 10 days in Japan. They were all encouraged to remember they will become the first Americans that many of the Japanese people they meet will ever know.