Families, foreign exchange students share experiences

May 1, 2019 Cranberry Living


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Jeff and Rebecca Simmons pose with this year’s Rotary Club of Zelienople’s Rotary Youth Exchange Program student, Rohita Karwa.

ZELIENOPLE — Some people go their whole lives without leaving the country they were born in. Others travel across the world to study, experience new cultures and meet new people before they’re even adults.

Rohita Karwa is one student who decided she wanted to see the world through a foreign exchange program.

Rohita is a 17-year-old from India who has spent the last school year at Seneca Valley Senior High School, taking classes as a senior, including American literature, French, trigonometry and other topics she said she would not have learned in her home country’s school.

She is also involved in student council, diversity committee, interact club, chess club, badminton club and family, career, community leaders of America.

“I wanted to be an exchange student as I like to travel,” Rohita said. “I thought it would be nice experience, and (my) father was also an exchange student.”

Rohita said she was excited to come to the United States and her parents and family supported her in the endeavor.

“Now they all are proud of me doing this trip as I never was away from my family for so long,” she said. “My friends are also happy and waiting for me to come back to India.”

She said her favorite parts of being an exchange student were meeting other exchange students, knowing about a different culture and staying with her host family.

Since arriving in August, Rohita has stayed with two host families. Currently, she lives with Jeff and Rebecca Simmons.

Jeff Simmons, outbound coordinator for Rotary District 7280 Youth Exchange, said all extracurricular activities are optional to the students, but the Rotary club encourages students to “get involved as much as they possibly can as a way to meet other students and get involved in the community.”

“Our students typically participate in a number of things — from choir to sports to some clubs,” Simmons said. “Our student this year (Rohita) is involved in a number of activities at school.”

Becoming a host family doesn’t take as much as many people think, Simmons said. Hosts provide three meals a day and a safe place to sleep and study.

“Those are the main responsibilities in terms of financial responsibilities,” he said. “The local Rotary club pays a monthly allowance for the student, which covers some of the student’s other spending needs.”

Simmons said host families do not have to be part of Rotary or have children of their own to participate in Zelienople’s Rotary Youth Exchange Program.

The students who come through the exchange program are between 15 and 18 years old, but they are typically placed as seniors in high school.

Now nearing the end of her stay, Rohita said she would recommend the exchange program.

“You will have a good experience, and you will get to know about different country’s culture and lifestyle,” she said. “For hosting, also, I will say that you should host as you will have nice experience and learn about different culture.”

Simmons said the application process to become a host family is “very thorough,” takes a few weeks and includes background checks and visits from Rotary club representatives. The club is still seeking hosts for students in next year’s program.

For more information on how to become a host family, contact Robin Fleming at 724-816-1148 or r.fleming@zoominternet.net or Jeff Simmons at 724-473-0016 or jssim89167@yahoo.com.

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