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Worlds of wonder

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first_imgVolunteerism and community service. “In Moldova,” she said,”people tend to get money for everything they do.”School is easier but more interesting, with more groupactivities and projects and teachers more focused on motivatingstudents.There is a minimum alcohol drinking age, so drinking is abigger deal to kids here than in Moldova, which has no drinkingage. By Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaThe land of her dreams is everything Irina Melnic hoped it wouldbe, but with some big surprises.”The people here are so different,” said Melnic, a 17-year-oldstudent from the smallish town of Calarasi, in the heart ofMoldova. “People come from so many different countries. I had anidea it would be like this, but it still surprises me.”That’s the way international student exchanges are supposed towork, said Jeff Buckley, state coordinator of 4-H internationaland citizenship programs.Melnic is in Georgia through the Future Leaders Exchange, aprogram through which high school students in former Sovietstates spend a school year in the United States. She’s asophomore at Greenbrier High School near Evans, Ga.’Biggest dream'”My biggest dream since the second grade was to come to America,”Melnic said, who calls her host parents, Bill and Carol Jacksonof Evans, “wonderful.”Her favorite Georgia place: Six Flags Over Georgia. Her favoriteactivity: caving. Her biggest surprises: Four exchange programsFLEX is one of four exchange programs through Georgia 4-H,Buckley said. The other three are all through the Labo Party, ayouth development group similar to 4-H in Japan.The Labo programs include both inbound and outbound one-monthsummer visits, he said. A third program brings a Japanese studentto Georgia for a year.Host families for exchange programs must sign up by May 1. Thosewho want to host for a month must have children between 10 and 20years old. Those who want to host either a FLEX or Labo studentfor a whole year, however, don’t have to have children.Kayla Perry, a Madison County High School freshman, has been inall three Labo programs. Her family hosted a girl, MisatoHoriuchi, for a month in 2003, then hosted a boy, Jun Katayama,for the 2003-04 school year.Parents, too”It was a wonderful experience for us,” said Donna Perry, Kayla’smom. “We learned so much about Japanese culture. And they learneda lot about our culture. Misato was from Tokyo, and we live on afarm. She just loved going trail riding.”Last summer, Perry traveled to Japan for a month. “I never eventhought about going to Japan until Misato started talking aboutit,” she said. “Going there was pretty scary. But after the firstfew days with my host family, I started to relax.”Before it was over, she bubbled with enthusiasm. “I had a blast,”she said. “My host family showed me so many things. They werewonderful.”At 6 feet tall with blonde hair, the 15-year-old Georgianattracted attention. “Everybody there was Asian,” she said. “Eventheir immigrants were from Asian countries, so I really stoodout.”‘Hello!’That turned out to be a good thing. “Everybody speaks someEnglish there,” she said, “and they all wanted to say the Englishwords they knew to me. They were very friendly.”Her biggest surprise was her host dad’s taking her to “meet hisgrandmother.” The revered grandmother’s ashes were at a shrine,where her host family kept incense burning and brought rice eachmorning and tea each evening.”They knew I was a Christian and respected that,” Perry said.”But they introduced me to their religion, too, and I respectedthat. We all understood each other.”To learn more about international exchange programs throughGeorgia 4-H, contact Buckley at (706) 542-8756 [email protected] Or go to www.georgia4hinternational.organd click on “Exchange Programs.”(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img


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