Foreign students learn about art and America
August 22, 2007
Fourteen students from around the world received a pottery lesson from a local artist this week to climax their four-week stay in Truckee.
Foreign-exchange students from Japan, Korea, France and the Czech Republic learned the basics of fashioning a clay bowl from potter Alanna Hughes at Riverside Studios on Donner Pass Road.
Ranging in age from 15 to 18, the students were introduced to the Truckee artist by Daniel Borge, the regional coordinator of this year’s American Scandinavian Student Exchange. As they watched Hughes squeeze a mass of clay into a ball, a few students whispered to each other in their native languages. Yoon Ha, 16, said she had taken a pottery lesson before in her native Korea, but declined to demonstrate her skills.
The residential program was not all field trips, as the students studied English at Truckee’s Veteran Hall weekdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. after which they could spend time with their host families or venture out on their own. Borge said as long as the students check in with their host families they are free to go on walks, visit the regional park or go to the beach.
The students got their first taste of American public transportation via Tahoe Area Rapid Transit on a field trip to Meeks Bay. Borge organized a two-hour workshop every week and longer all-day trips on Fridays.
Next week the students will receive a crash course in American teen life with a tour of Truckee High School.
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The students are here through an international program that works with families that are interested in sending their children to a foreign country for one year. American Scandinavian Student Exchange, founded in 1976 by the Swedish government to facilitate student exchange between Sweden and the U.S. now works with 36 countries worldwide. The program matches students with local families that are willing to provide living quarters and basic services. The students must agree to be interested and engaged in the community and in exchange they receive more than an education.
“We went hiking at Donner Summit, went to Meeks Bay, and [the] Vikingsholm Mansion and next we’re going on the Tahoe Gal or to Sand Harbor,” Borge said.
Borge said that he tries to keep the money generated from the program local by staging field trips locally, renting community buildings for class rooms and using public transportation whenever he can.
“This is great for the community because [local] families are telling us that they are meeting people [from other host families] that they never knew were here,” said English instructor Lisa Williams.
Williams said the objective of the program is teaching English but bigger than that are introducing American habits and the way families interact. She said learning about different cultures’ greetings is her most memorable experience with the program.
She described a dinner party where Borge’s Danish wife was hosting and the Japanese were bowing, the French were kissing cheeks and the Americans bear-hugging and Borge’s wife was backing away from all of them confused on what to do to say hi.
Pearlie Johnson, the other English instructor, said that for some of the students seemingly simple things like eating breakfast took time to get used to. The Korean students were used to eating kim-chee and rice for breakfast not American fare like bacon and eggs and cereal she said. Borge added that some of the students were not even eating breakfast until the instructors realized what was happening.
After the four week program the students will be placed with host families in different parts of the U.S., some hope to stay close by.
Satoshi Tanaka, 17, of Tokyo, Japan has studied English since he was five-years-old. He wears a black and white nylon jacket and dark blue jeans as he crosses his fingers and puts in his wish for a local host family for the remainder of the year.
“[I] hope for California,” he grins.
The program is funded through the student’s family and a few grants that are available to eligible students.
“It’s a good program [but you] have to save a lot of money,” said Meaghan Martin-Paty an 18 year-old from Orleans, France.
The Rotary Club is another organization in the area that promotes Foreign Exchange student programs.