Exchange program: Truckee teens travel abroad |

Exchange program: Truckee teens travel abroad

Photo courtesy of Penni CabralAndrea Cannon,Bradley Cabral and Shelby Lewis.

These three Truckee teens don’t even have their driver’s licenses, but that isn’t stopping them from boarding an airplane to travel thousands of miles overseas to experience a different culture and learn a foreign language.

Shelby Lewis, Andrea Cannon, and Brad Cabral are all 15 years old, live in Truckee, and are each participating in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.

The three of them said they aren’t too anxious about their upcoming adventures.

“I’m surprisingly very excited,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she was ecstatic for three months when she thought she’d be going to Ghana, Africa. Unfortunately, those trip plans fell through and now she will head to Belgium in August, she said. Right now, learning French is a top priority for Lewis.

“I wanted to try something new … experience vulnerability before I go out into my own life,” said Lewis, on her decision to travel abroad.

Lewis said she’s been in contact with her host sister, 19, who speaks English fairly well, but wants to “blend in and observe what’s different” in the European culture. The straight-A student said she wants to share her American culture with her family as well through music, books, and clothing.

Lewis scrunched her nose, “They wear their clothes five days in a row.”

Lewis said her friends had mixed feelings about her leaving asking, “Why would you ever leave here for a year?”

She is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Truckee. She said the students attended an informative Rotary orientation to prepare them for their trip. She said the club recommended the students’ families don’t visit until next spring in order for them to get situated with their host families.

For Cannon, traveling to other countries isn’t so foreign to her. She said she also lived in Mexico with relatives for a year when she was in eighth grade. Cannon’s destination will be to Switzerland for one year.

“I can’t stay in one place,” said Cannon, who is sponsored by Truckee Sunrise Rotary.

Sounding self-assured, Cannon said she can’t wait to meet new friends while she’s there, learn French, and experience life outside of Truckee.

Cabral said he was encouraged to put his name down on the exchange program list after hearing about his swim captain’s positive experience traveling abroad. He said he plans on bringing postcards and Truckee brochures to share with his host family in Slovakia. He said he “wants to put out a good image” while he’s visiting.

Cabral admitted the language barrier makes him nervous since he found out his Slovakian host family doesn’t speak English very well. He said the Slovak language is difficult to learn, but he’s managed to pick up on the language a little bit.

“I just really want to learn about the culture and share our country,” said Cabral, who is sponsored by Georgetown Rotary in Auburn.

They will fly to their different locations in August for a one-year stay with a designated host family and take high school classes while they are living there. Lewis said the navy Rotary blazers they wear “signify us as ambassadors” as they travel to foreign rotary clubs and trade pins with other exchange students.

Homesickness, and the fact that a big ocean separates the teens from their families and friends is a concern for the teens.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” said Cannon.

Cabral said his siblings are excited for him but said they will miss him while he’s gone. He said he plans on keeping in touch with weekly e-mail messages and monthly phone calls home after he leaves on Aug. 12.

Cannon has roughly just three weeks until she leaves on Aug. 5. She said she has been “trying to be responsible” by working this summer as a babysitter to earn spending money for her trip.

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