Posted by Jim Garrett
Speaker: Report of Ahia Kaeser, on her exchange student experience
High School student Ahia shared with Rotary her experiences last year as an exchange student in Italy, where she was with a family on the island of Sardinia, located about 125 mi. off the coast of the mainland in the Mediterranean Sea, southwest of Rome.
Ahia shared some of the differences she found in the educational experience: schools were in session 6 days weekly from 8:15 am to 1:15 pm., she said, and the students were based throughout the day in one room, visited by rotating teachers.  Her school had a focused classical curriculum, she said, and its students typically go on to University.
The school schedule allows students to get home in time for a big family lunch daily, joined by parents who come home from work.  Meals are important to Italians, she said, and recalled one that extended for a celebratory seven hours.  “Mange, Mange,” was a frequent refrain, she recalled, possibly lamenting having gained some weight.
She enjoyed several trips: three hosted by the local Rotary (including trips to Rome and to Pompeii), and one with her host family to the Italian Alps, which she described as “amazing.”  In addition, the local school took her class to Florence, where Ahia enjoyed the art Museums, recalling  Michelangelo’s famous “David,” with special enthusiasm.
Ahia told us she knew little or no Italian before beginning her time on exchange, but over several months she learned “conversational” Italian well, and even has had dreams in the language.
Ahia attributed increased self-confidence in “everyday matters” to her experience as an exchange student.  As well as giving her the opportunity to learn a new language, her experience also instilled in her a love of travel, she said, and “enriched her life.”
Ahia presented a small flag to Pagosa Springs Rotary as a token of friendship from the host Sardinian Rotary Club.  Her presentation was warmly received by meeting attendees.