After their long journey to Ireland and Kildare, the students were welcomed to the town by Athy Municipal District Cathaoirleach Mark Wall at a reception and attended classes and enjoyed sightseeing excursions during their stay.
Athy College Principal Richard Daly explained that they have been running a language school for the last few years with Equinox Education Services in Carlow, with students mainly coming from Spain, France and Italy.
He said that over the last two years they’ve been working with a Japanese school in the hope they would consider Athy as a location to send their students. Alongside the recently-departed cohort, a further group of around 50 Japanese pupils will come to the town to brush up on their language skills before the end of the summer.
“Their command of the English language is quite good and so in many cases it’s more brushing up than anything, because the English language would be quite popular in Japan,” Mr Daly said.
The students, he explained, are hosted by local families (which benefits the local economy), as if they were to stay together or if they were in groups they would tend to speak their native language. “Our language school is based on the fact that local families host them,” he said. “So, they not only have to use the English language, but they also have to immerse themselves in the Irish culture.”
And, while trips are arranged for visiting students on Saturdays, the host families usually do something with them on Sundays – perhaps a visit to a local tourist attraction in Athy or Kildare. Mr Daly highlighted the support from the local community in making the students’ visit one to remember, including a chance to see Athy from the River Barrow that was facilitated by Dan Curtis from the Dragon Boat Club. “The local community have been extremely supportive of these students and particularly the Japanese [students] recently,” he said.
Mr Daly noted that they hope to develop links between Kildare and Japan, adding that the students’ recent trip was very successful. “The signals are that they’re extremely happy with their visit here,” he said. “We expect it to grow and grow over the years.”