When Troy and Heather de Vries hosted Japanese students several years ago, they couldn’t have known it would alter the course of their daughter’s life.
“I was 11 when my family was asked to host a girl for five weeks. She was really a great girl, she would play with us. We would have other Japanese students over and they doted on me and my younger brother. I equated this experience with Japan,” says Koryn.
In her youthful all-encompassing enthusiasm she decided: “One day I’m going to Japan and I’m never coming back.’”
She studied the language, and she worked hard outside of school, at the library and McDonalds, to earn money for a trip she knew she would take one day. Koryn graduated half a year early and planned to go to Inashiki, Salmon Arm’s sister city, for a ‘gap year.’ Koryn went over a week before an official delegation from Salmon Arm was due to arrive.
“Mayor Nancy Cooper stayed at the same home as me and I translated for her. It was good the delegation was there, they needed me to translate and it kept me from being homesick.”
Although Koryn had graduated, she attend high school to improve her language skills. But most of her strong friendships and influences came from other places, especially from her host parents, a retired couple who made her feel very welcome.
“I really admire my host mother, Fujiko Ishii. She made all the meals, did all the housework, and she is involved in tea ceremonies, choir, dancing, and plays an instrument. My host father, Michirou Ishii, is prominent in the community, he knows everybody and is on the planning committee whenever anyone from Salmon Arm comes over. He has come to Salmon Arm twice.”
Koryn wrote a blog (ryninjapan.wordpress.com) and it is filled with interesting details of daily life in Japan.
“One of the highlights was my road trip to Matsumoto castle. I went with the oldest daughter (of the host family) and one of her friends. She’s a history nerd and so am I. It was a lot of fun to connect with her and see something incredible and I learned a lot about the country.”
She is also a big fan of the cuisine and it shows in her blogging.
“Japanese food is amazing and the special dinners were so pretty they needed to be photographed.”
Koryn says another very special memory was volunteering at a Bible camp.
“It was super cool to connect with little kids from different areas of Japan and to see what’s going on in their lives.”
Looking back at her 11-year-old self, Koryn can smile at the idea that she would never leave Japan. She is back now, but only for the summer, working hard to earn money to go back. She will be going to a Christian university in Japan starting this fall.
This past year has been a year of great personal growth for Koryn and she encourages other young people to travel and dream globally.
“It’s character building and important to do. It broadens horizons and lets you see mindsets beyond your own.”