For the week of February 10, 1999  thru February 16, 1999  

Exchange students revel in the Wood River Valley

Hosts and hosted share new experiences

Express Staff Writer

f10exchange.jpg (15006 bytes)AFS students entertain themselves with a talent show. (Express photos by Willy Cook)

In a Hulen Meadows home Saturday night, as the second of the weekend’s series of storms piled on more powder, a gathering of high school foreign exchange students and their hosts for the weekend went on—boisterously-- unheeded.

William and Lisa Mirams hosted the dinner party for American Field Service students, a group of 18 foreign exchange students who are staying with families across the state.

The students seemed to treasure the chance to congregate and celebrate for the weekend in the snowy retreat of the Wood River Valley.

"We don’t have mountains in Belgium," said Olivier Van Grinbergen, gazing gleefully out the window.

Grinbergen is staying with a host family in Boise, which he said took some getting used to because Boise is "such a big city."

"I’ve never seen so much snow," chimed in Alex Castro, who is from Panama. "I love it."

Most of the students were chattering away about their alpine experiences during the day. Sun Valley Company offered a discount rate to the AFS group, and there was evidently no shortage of takers.

A few of the foreign students, however, took time to reflect on their cultural experiences in Idaho.

"I like the people here," said Matias Kemia of Finland. "People don’t talk as much to each other in Finland. Here, people talk a lot. And there is not as much school spirit in Finland."

"The school system is very different," said Daniele Casari, from Italy. Casari is one of three exchange students spending the year in Hailey and attending Wood River High School.

"In Italy, we cannot choose our subjects," Casari said, "And there is more concentration on the learning process. There are no clubs, sports, or dances, like there are here."

Sitting with Casari was Kristen Hanggi, a junior at Wood River High School. Hangii said she already submitted her AFS application for the year after her senior year and "would really like to stay in Italy."

"It has been a wonderful experience," said Maureen Patterson, who is hosting Casari. Patterson’s daughter, Shauna, is currently an AFS student living in Hamburg, Germany, so the exchange is especially meaningful, she said.

Patrick and Carol McLaughlin, who are hosting Giulia Clauss, who is also from Italy, for the weekend, seemed as gleeful as the students.

"She has been delightful," said Carol of their exchange student. "We hope to have a student stay with us all year next year."

The McLaughlin’s daughter, Lucia, said she has enjoyed the chance to practice a little Italian with their weekend guest.

"Apparently, I have a southern Italian accent," she said, with a tinge of disappointment.

Formed in 1947, AFS is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, nonprofit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities.

The idea for AFS evolved from an all-civilian, volunteer force of ambulance drivers active in Europe, Africa and the Middle east during World War II. They felt strongly in the idea of peaceful, international exchanges and launched the program by sending a handful of students from 10 countries to the Unites States.

The students in the Wood River Valley last weekend were among more than 250,000 that have participated in cultural exchanges through AFS to date.

Several local businesses—Teas and Temptations, David Stoecklein Photography, Chateau Drug, Hailey Chevron, Jane’s Holiday House, and Valley Market—donated gifts for the AFS students. A few lucky foreigners will leave the Wood River Valley with a coffee mug from Hailey Chevron.


 Back to Front Page
Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.