MIAMI COUNTY — One local teen will call Japan home for two months this summer through the state 4-H-sponsored youth exchange program.
Rylee Puthoff, 15, a freshman at Miami East High School, will travel to Japan as part of the Ohio 4-H delegation through its International Program.
The daughter of Cheryl and James Puthoff of Conover, Puthoff said she read about the international program in the state’s 4-H newsletter seeking families to host students from Japan several years ago.
Last summer, the Puthoff family hosted 14-tear-old Yui Takahashi from Japan through the Labo and 4-H international exchange program.
“We got my host sister, Yui, and it left a lasting impression on me. Having someone so different in how they act and perceive things, from another culture, really was interesting. It’s a new friend from another country that I’ll always have,” Puthoff said. “Now I’ll get to go and it’s a world full of opportunities.”
Puthoff leaves June 13 and will return Aug. 9 — right before the Miami County Fair begins. Puthoff will first participate in the month-long language immersion program called “Nihongo,” taking daily classes at the Labo International headquarters for four weeks. Labo International is a language and family organization similar to the 4-H program.
She’ll also attend Labo camp, Japan’s version of 4-H camp, before traveling and sightseeing in Tokyo. Puthoff is hoping to stay the final four weeks with her Japanese “sister” who lived with her last summer.
“What made me want to go was to see Yui and get to learn about her culture a lot better,” she said. “I’m really excited to visit Tokyo, one of the biggest countries in the world, and just to learn about this new culture and how they do things.”
Puthoff shared that this will be the first time she’s ever left the United States and she is looking forward to the challenges of living on the other side of the world this summer.
“Just because you don’t know each other’s language doesn’t mean you can’t understand each other,” she said. “There’s an understanding without using language or words.”
Puthoff, a member of the Mr. Graham’s Museum 4-H Club and the Miami County Jr. Fair board, is currently raising funds for her trip. On Tuesday, May 22, she will host a painting party at the Fletcher United Methodist Church. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., with all proceeds going toward Puthoff’s trip expenses. To reserve a spot or to donate to the trip, contact Cheryl Puthoff at (614) 208-0484.