Bunch preps for Japan trip

Published 9:10 am Thursday, May 27, 2010

AHOSKIE – Tonijah Bunch will be packing her bags for Japan soon.

The seventh grader at Hertford County Middle School is one of seven local students who will participate in the People to People student ambassador program this summer.

The program was formed in 1956 by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It allows ordinary citizens of different nations to communicate directly. The ambassadors have gone to 34 countries on seven continents.

Bunch joins Lauren Dunlow of Askewville and Justin Saunders of Ahoskie as the local contingent selected by People to People.

“I was excited as soon as I read the letter,” Bunch said. “It’s something I’ve been interested in since I first learned about it.”

Bunch was nominated by a previous teacher and selected for an interview held in Rocky Mount where she answered questions about being a student ambassador.

Two weeks after her interview, she learned she was selected for the opportunity to make the trip to Japan.

Asked about the opportunity to go to across the ocean, Bunch said she was excited about every aspect of the trip.

“The whole thing,” she said. “I’ve never really been out of the country and I wanted the chance to go.”

The student at HCMS has already begun studying Japanese culture and admits she has learned more because of the prospects of making the trip.

“I’ve learned some of the culture, their customs and I’m trying to learn some of the language before I go,” she said. “That’s a big challenge.”

Bunch is set to embark on her journey June 20 and will return on July 3. She is one of 40 students from the eastern part of the United States who will travel to California to become part of the delegation going to Japan.

Bunch said she particularly liked the Kimonos worn by the Japanese because of their color and style. She is also looking forward to her stay with Japanese families and the opportunity to explore the country.

The group will travel to Hiroshima, Tokyo and Kyoto during the two-week excursion.

“I’m excited for her and I’m hoping that I will have learned some Japanese by the time she gets back,” laughed her mother, Sharon Bunch.

Tonijah Bunch is in the process of raising the $7,000 needed to make the trip. Those wishing to help can send contributions to: People to People, P.O. Box 34902, Seattle, WA 98124-1902. Reference account number 10051815.

Bunch is the daughter of William and Sharon Bunch of Ahoskie.