By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes
The longest stretch Josh Pentecost has been away from family is five consecutive days.
That’s about to change.
Pentecost, 16, is this year’s Keizer Rotary Outbound Exchange Student of the Year, which means he’s about to embark on a year stay in Maebashi, Japan.
Published reports state Maebashi was founded in 1892 by samurai Makuba Kawai, lies at the base of Mt. Akagi and is home to 300,000 residents. It’s also 1 1/2 hours north of Tokyo by car.
Pentecost’s stay begins later this month and could extend into July.
He added he was interested in Peru, Ecuador and Germany, but Japan was his first choice of countries.
“The culture and the people,” he said when asked why Japan. “I got close with a bunch of the Japanese exchange students. Hearing about it and interacting with them, it seemed like the place I wanted to go.”
Pentecost added he finds Japanese students to be friendly and hospitable while demonstrating mutual respect for each other.
“I also love the culture and the food. I love the food,” he said.
Pentecost will attend a co-ed Christian school and wear a uniform. The campus is large enough to have tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball fields. But he doesn’t know if his classes will be in English or Japanese.
“I think they’re going to be in Japanese because the exchange students that come here, they put them in English classes,” he said.
Pentecost described his ability to speak Japanese as limited. He expects that to change.
“Talking to some of the kids who went over to Japan last year, they said they hardly knew anything before they went over there, and they were able to speak and hold conversations in Japanese” by the time they left.
Preparation for his trip began last year when he completed his sophomore and junior years. Even with a year in Japan, he’s on track to graduate with his class.
As departure nears, the reality of his decision is hitting home.
“Up until a few weeks ago, I was, like, I didn’t really think I was going to miss that much about home. But now that it’s, like, really close, I’m starting to think that, oh, I’m not going to see everyone for a year. It’s kind of settling in. But I’m still real excited. I mean, I’ll miss people. But I’ll also get to meet a lot of new people and have a new life over there,” said Pentecost.