Rotary Club of Faribault

Posted by Gunnar Olson on Aug 24, 2017
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Students reflect on cultures, insights from studying abroad

     Three students who went abroad during high school for different lengths of time, at different times in the year and for different reasons.       Some studied for an entire school year, others visited for just a month, but through their adventures, they agreed that they missed some parts of home, but also made unforgettable memories and friendships.
Run through Northstar Youth Exchange, students 15 to 19 can participate in an exchange. The Faribault Rotary Club is accepting applications for interested students through Oct. 7. If interested, contact Lisa Humfeld-Wilson at 507-330-0108 to learn more. Applications can be submitted through
From the salty Mediterranean Sea to Southeast Asia, these three Faribault students shared their experiences of living and learning a long way from Faribault.
Teresa Wilder – Poland
Wilder is currently a sophomore at University of St. Thomas. She studied abroad in 2015/2016, her senior year in High School, on the Baltic Coast of Poland in a city called Sopot.
What did you study?
I mostly studied Polish. I attended a Polish school. When I arrived, I didn’t know much, so I couldn’t keep up with the subjects, so I went to Polish lessons. While everyone else was studying geography, I was studying Polish. The first word I learned was “squared” which I picked up from math class.
What was the highlight of your trip?
I loved my host family. I stayed with the same family for nine months, which is unusual. They were a couple in their early 60s and they were the sweetest couple ever. They had a daughter on exchange that year, so they understood what I was going through. They taught me a lot of Polish as well because the dad did not speak any English.
What will you miss most about Poland?
I miss the language a lot. I fell in love with it because it’s very, very complicated, but it always follows the rules. If you know the rules, you know the language, unlike English where if you know the rules you don’t know anything.
What did you miss most about home while you were gone?
My siblings. I’m very close with them, so I had some issues with home sickness early on. It was rough for me the first month, but I made a really close friend and she loved speaking English with me.
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
I definitely learned that you should try everything … within reason of course. Even things that scare you. Worst comes to worst, you won’t like it, but you might learn something new or have a blast.
Ellen Kaderlik – Thailand
Kaderlik is currently a senior in high school. She studied abroad for a full year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last school year, returning in June.
What did you study?
I was put into a traditional Thai high school, but in a special dance and music school. I got to study more of the culture than the actual school part of it.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The highlight for me was to meet the other exchange students. That was one of the coolest things, to have those connections around the world, now. If I am ever in that part of the world, I will always have a friend there.
What will you miss most about Thailand?
I’m going to miss learning the different culture. Thailand was completely different. It’s really night and day compared to here.
What did you miss most about home while you were gone?
The food. You couldn’t find any traditional American food there. I missed the holidays for that reason. That was one of the hardest things while I was over there, not being with my family for the holidays.
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
The first couple of months were hard, but you have to stick it out. I really learned to be patient. Patience is the biggest thing I took away from the experience.
Jessica Amundson – Italy
Amundson is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She studied in Catania, Sicily, Italy for the month of June. She then returned home with a girl from the family she stayed with as part of the exchange. The girl then spent a month in Minnesota with the Amundsons.
What did you study?
There’s no school or formal studying in this program. It’s called a family to family exchange. I learned a lot about the culture. It’s a way to expand my knowledge and a way to travel the world.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The Mediterranean Sea. I live in the middle of Minnesota, so I’m nowhere near seas or oceans. The water is crystal clear. It was completely different. We swam in it almost every day, it was amazing.
What will you miss most about Sicily?
I miss my family that I made over there. Alica (the exchange student who came to Minnesota), her family and her siblings.
What did you miss most about home while you were gone?
I missed butter. I know that sounds funny, but in my family, we love butter. It’s like a main food group for us. In Italy, they don’t but butter on a lot of things. Me, I would put butter on everything and they laughed at me all the time because I ate them out of butter. One other thing would be ice cubes in the water, they don’t drink water with ice. Don’t get me wrong, I missed my family, too.
What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest takeaway was just their take on America. For us, we see all these things going on in our country on social media, but we know some of the truth behind it. In Italy, all they get are the dramatized sides of the story. When Alica came here to meet my family, she got to hear what my family had to say about [President Donald] Trump, for example. There are people in Italy that assumed that we all felt the way Trump felt, like we are all clumped together. I liked going there and seeing that they don’t necessarily know what’s going on in America.
Also, they have a totally different time culture. There, everything is open at night. Their parties, events, they all start at 9 p.m. and you stay out until 2 a.m.. That’s when you do the fun things, but I was like, ‘that’s when I sleep.’