By Seema Tamang, Secondary School Student, Kathmandu, Nepal
A version of this story was published on Rotary Voices
Seema Tamang, the first rotary youth exchange student from Kathmandu Nepal talks to us about her high school exchange in the United States.
Describe your home life in the United States.
During the 2016-17 school year, I was thrilled to be the first outbound exchange student from Nepal. Being blind, I have to admit I was a bit scared at first, as home life in the United States was much different than in Nepal. In my host-family’s home I had my own room, which was a new experience for me. I was used to sleeping in the same room with my sisters and with other girls in the dormitory at school. Being in a large home was very different and exciting as I got to explore every room and orient myself so that I could move about safely and quickly. It didn’t take me too long to be able to find everything by myself. It seems funny now that when I first arrived I asked my host-mom where the water bucket and pitcher was for flushing the toilet, like we do in Nepal.
What is one of the major differences you noticed?
We always wash dishes by hand in Nepal and I had never experienced a dishwasher before. However, I quickly learned how to load and empty the dishwasher to be of help to my host family. Using the washer and dryer was also a new experience for me. My host family put Braille dots on the appliances so that I could learn how to use them.
How has your exchange experience contributed to your personal growth?
I have made great improvements with my English skills and I am now able to converse and make friends more easily. I have grown in my ability to adjust to different circumstances. I am also more comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people.
What has been the best part of your exchange experience?
I have had many amazing experiences. Sledding in the snow, ice-skating, horseback riding, pop-music concerts and American holidays. One that particularly stands out was my visit to the Bellevue, Washington Police Department. On my birthday I was totally surprised to be picked up at home by Captain Lisa and given a ride in a squad car to the station where I learned how the police department worked. I checked out a police motorcycle, practiced self-defense on a rubber dummy, and got to go into a police holding cell.
What was it like to have a pet?
My host family had a pet cat named Kumari. It took me quite a while to get comfortable with cats as no one keeps a cat as a pet in Nepal. My host family put a bell on Kumari’s collar which helped me know where she was. We eventually became good friends. However, my true love is dogs and I was lucky to meet many fun and friendly ones. I got to meet ‘Bella’ the Bulldog, ‘Lilly’ the King Charles Spaniel and ‘Grant’, a guide dog in training. Lilly was the first dog I met and she became my favorite. I miss her so much now that I’m back home. In the future I would love to have a guide-dog to help me and to be my furry friend.
What surprised you most about attending high school in the United States?
With school, I was so surprised we did not have to wear uniforms, that students get to choose their own classes, that we had to move from class to class after each period, and that we got two days off each week (we only get Saturday off in Nepal). Each teacher assigned a fellow student to be my sighted-guide to help me move from class to class which helped me make many wonderful friends.
Do you have a favorite U.S. holiday?
Halloween. My host mom helped me dress up as a cat and I went door-to-door around our neighborhood with some of my friends, knocking on doors and getting loads of candy!
What advice do you have for other exchange students?
Youth exchange will definitely change your perspective. My advice is be prepared to gain new ideas, grow your confidence and become more independent.
Categories: Program Spotlight
|About Nicole Elkon|
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
Nicole Elkon joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange in September 2021. Until June 2021, Ms. Elkon was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Human Rights First, an independent advocacy organization focused on human rights and the rule of law. Prior to her position as COO, Ms. Elkon was a Senior Advisor at Results for America (RFA), a non-profit organization focused on advancing data-driven, evidence based public policy at all levels of government. She also served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of ECA and was Director of the Office of Public Private Partnerships at ECA working to leverage strategic partnerships to enhance Administration foreign policy priorities.Read More
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