By Seema Tamang, Rotary Youth Exchange student from Kathmandu, Nepal
During the 2016-17 school year, I was thrilled to be the first outbound exchange student from Nepal. Being blind, I have to admit I was a bit scared at first, as home life in the US was much different than in Nepal. I was used to sleeping in the same room with my sisters and with other girls in the dormitory at school. With my host family, I had my own room. But it did not take long to adapt, and enjoy an amazing experience during which I grew in many ways.
I stayed with my first host family, the Roses, during the school year. My second host family, the Camruds, included mom and dad and two younger host brothers. Being in a large home was very different and exciting as I got to explore every room and orient myself so that I could move about safely and quickly. It didn’t take me too long to be able to find everything by myself. It seems funny now that when I first arrived I asked my host-mom where the water bucket and pitcher was for flushing the toilet, like we do in Nepal!
Dish washing made easy
We always wash dishes by hand in Nepal and I had never experienced a dishwasher before. However, I quickly learned how to load and empty the dishwasher to be of help to my hosts. Using the washer and dryer was also a new experience for me. My host family put Braille dots on the appliances so that I could learn how to use them.
My advice to other exchange students is be prepared to gain new ideas, grow your confidence and become more independent.
I have made great improvements with my English skills and I am now able to converse and make friends more easily. I have grown in my ability to adjust to different circumstances. I am also more comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people.
I had many amazing experiences. Sledding in the snow, ice-skating, horseback riding, pop-music concerts and American holidays. One that particularly stands out was my visit to the Bellevue, Washington Police Department. On my birthday I was totally surprised to be picked up at home by Captain Lisa and given a ride in a squad car to the station where I learned how the police department worked. I checked out a police motorcycle, practiced self-defense on a rubber dummy, and got to go into a police holding cell.
No uniforms, two days off a week
With school, I was so surprised we did not have to wear uniforms, that students get to choose their own classes, that we had to move from class to class after each period, and that we got two days off each week (we only get Saturday off in Nepal). Each teacher assigned a fellow student to be my sighted-guide to help me move from class to class which helped me make many wonderful friends.
Youth exchange will definitely change your perspective. My advice to other exchange students is be prepared to gain new ideas, grow your confidence and become more independent.
Learn more about the opportunities available through Rotary Youth Exchange