Carson Valley families welcomes exchange student
Three Carson Valley families will be showing an exchange student from Belgium about life in America for the next year.
Through the Rotary Club Youth Exchange, 18-year-old Emilie Mossiat traveled thousands of miles to the Valley a few weeks ago and will spend four months with each of the three families, starting with the Pardee family – Skip, Veronica, Rita and Dana.
“The youth exchange is one of my favorite things about Rotary,” said Skip, 53, adding this is the fourth exchange student his family has hosted. “We started doing it five years ago as an experience for our kids. We take in only female students because we have two young daughters, and so far we have had girls from France, Japan, and Germany.”
“It has always a positive thing,” said Veronica, 46. “We’ve been very fortunate with the exchange students so far.”
– Speak French? One of the things that is different about Emilie is the fact that her English is very limited, Skip said. She speaks only French and, except from some remnants from Veronica’s high school French, no one else in the Pardee family speaks the language.
“It’s not a huge problem,” Skip said. “In fact, we’re having fun with her and the language thing. Veronica said she was counting with Emilie in French in the car today.”
“I’m not very good,” Veronica said. “We do have a French-English dictionary right on the table, though.”
Because of the language barrier, and also due to the usual practice with Rotary exchange students, Emilie is enrolled in easier classes than she might be taking if she was in her own hometown school.
“We have her in a P.E. class, where she said she was learning about baseball, an English as a second language class, cooking, philosophy, jazz dance and, of course, French – the teacher said she might be able to teach that class,” Skip joked. “Her real purpose in being here is to learn the American culture and learn the language. Oh, she’s also on the tennis team.”
Pardee said each Rotary exchange student is required to pay their way to the host community, with an open-ended ticket on hand for their return, hopefully after staying the entire 12 months.
“We hardly ever have problems, but we did have one boy who we almost had to send back,” he said. “We did finally get him with the right people, but he was spoiled and awful, which is really not the norm.”
– Minden Rotary Club. The exchange students also participate in the club’s weekly meetings. Rotary is a co-ed group of business individuals who meet socially and contribute to their community. This year, among other things, the Minden Rotary Club sponsored the Carson Valley Hot Air Balloon Race.
Rotary also gives the student a monthly stipend, Pardee said. The host family and the student’s parents also contribute to the year-long stay. Each club takes in one or two students, and the Minden Rotary has found that one student is plenty for the 45 or so members to focus on.
– Friendships are made. Pardee said one of the best parts of being a host family and welcoming these teen-age strangers into their home for four months has been the long-term friendships the family makes.
“Last summer, Veronica took the girls to Europe,” he said, “and they did get to stay in Germany for a visit with our last student’s family. We e-mail our Japanese student, too.”
Exchange students have also brought their families back to the Carson Valley to show them their America. Emilie, who lives in Belgium with her mother, a dental technician; stepfather, a waiter; 16-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother, has traveled around Europe some, Skip said, but never to the United States. She doesn’t show signs of being homesick yet, although he said that usually kicks in later on, after the excitement and attention-demanding adjustments to life in another country, home and family wanes.
Although she was hard-pressed to find anything negative to say about being a host mom, Veronica said if she had to pick something, it would be the added carpooling. Rotary exchange students aren’t allowed to drive, and in Belgium, they don’t drive until 18, anyway, she said.
“It’s one more child to cart around, but I’m used to that,” said Veronica, who works with Skip in his Minden chiropractic office.
– She wants to go someday. Rita, a 9th grader at Carson Valley Middle School, said she is looking forward to being a Rotary exchange student. Because the year of school each student spends in the host country doesn’t technically count, Rita will finish high school and go into the program the year after she graduates, entering a high school in her host country.
Rita said getting to know each girl has been exciting since they’re all unique.
“Getting to know them and the way things are done back in their homes is interesting,” she said. “The German student was amazed at how big our hamburgers are, the Japanese girl taught us origami, and the French girl was into drama and put on skits for us. When she talked on the phone (in English or in French), she really used her hands and it was fun to watch her. Emilie, she has very, very good chocolate.”