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'You feel like family': 4-H'er to intern in Japan

When Erin Hope was 12 years old, her mother saw a flier for an international exchange program sponsored by Ohio 4-H.

"She just decided, 'OK, we'll host a Japanese exchange student.' And we fell in love with the program," Hope said. Over the years, her family hosted two more month-long Japanese exchange students and a yearlong exchange student, and both Erin and her older brother visited Japan on two-month exchanges as part of the Labo International Youth Exchange Program.

Ten years later, Hope is about to embark on another adventure: She was selected to be one of three interns from the U.S. and Canada in the yearlong Labo Intern Program in Japan.

Labo is a Japanese youth organization focused on helping its members improve their English-language ability and learn about other cultures. It includes homestay and academic exchange programs for young people in Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and China.

"Erin will be a wonderful ambassador for Ohio 4-H, Ohio State University Extension, and the state of Ohio in general."—Mary Lynn Thalheimer

Hope was one of three Ohio 4-H members who were selected as finalists for the internship earlier this year, said Mary Lynn Thalheimer, program director for the Ohio 4-H International Program, which partners with Labo in the U.S.

"We couldn't be more proud of Erin and our other finalists," Thalheimer said. "Erin will be a wonderful ambassador for Ohio 4-H, Ohio State University Extension, and the state of Ohio in general."

Hope said her experience as president of Ohio State's Japanese student organization in 2011-12 helped prepare her for her internship duties. In addition, she credits her long experience in 4-H, particularly being a 4-H club officer and participating on the Junior Fair Board's Dairy Committee, with helping set her on firm ground. "It helped push me out of my comfort zone," she said.

Laryssa Hook, 4-H educator with OSU Extension in Delaware County, agrees.

"I remember Erin as being more quiet and reserved, but 4-H and the Junior Fair Board gave her experience in managing records and in working with others and with the public. I think those skills will be helpful for her on her internship. We're pretty proud of her."

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-- Martha Filipic, Communications and Technology