Waller High School students get to put chopstick skills to use as part of Japanese exchange program

WALLER, Texas (KTRK) -- Driving through the city of Waller, it's hard not to miss the Daikin Texas Technology Park.

The multinational air conditioning manufacturing company is headquartered in Osaka, Japan but made a home for its newest plant two years ago on a 90-acre parcel of land in Waller.

In an effort to give back to the community surrounding the Waller plant, Daikin selected four Waller high school students for an all expenses paid trip across the ocean to learn about the country where the company is headquartered.

For the students, the key to the once-in-a-lifetime trip was proper preparation: etiquette lessons, language lessons and even chopstick practice.

"Even before the trip, we already gained so much," said Waller High School senior Anthony Zarazua. "You had to be comfortable in a whole different country."

Representing their small Texas community in the large port city of Osaka, each student stayed with a Japanese family.

The students say the experience not only changed their worldview, but also their plans for the future, like Aubrey French, who is now considering a career as a translator.

While the food, architecture and geography were all memorable, the students say it was the Japanese people that made the trip unforgettable.

"We were crying because we got so attached we didn't want to leave them, so it's like having a family on the other side of the world now," senior Tori Wright said.

A new crop of Waller students will have the chance to apply this school year for the 10-day trip.

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