West Linn Rotary Club hosts youth exchanges
When West Linn resident Becky Brody received an email from a friend asking if she'd be interested in hosting exchange student Nic Hsiao from Taiwan, she couldn't say no. After all, Taiwan was her home for about 10 years during her childhood.
"I felt this would be an amazing experience," said Becky, adding that her husband Carl and two daughters were immediately on board.
Becky said, as an American, she grew up as a minority in Taiwan. She didn't speak Mandarin Chinese, the native language, but she loved the culture and people.
"I know where (Nic) grew up," she said. "I think just my love of Asian things and people makes it a really good fit. Also just to have my kids get to know Nic and understand his culture more."
Hsiao, who arrived in West Linn Aug. 21 and will stay for 10 months, is part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program — a program that allows 15- to 19-year-olds experience another culture during short-term or long-term exchanges. Students are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries, and the West Linn Rotary Club has hosted youth exchanges for the last five years.
"We've had a lot of participating families and the kids have been wonderful to work with as well," said Ken Worcester, WL Rotary youth exchange officer.
The long-term exchange extends for the entire academic school year and the student lives with three host families during that time — Hsiao is staying with the Brodys until January before he switches homestays.
"We think it's neat because it really impacts a lot of people in the community," Worcester said. "By going to the different families they're exposed to more friends (and) by the end of the exchange, there's hundreds of people that have met these kids and have been touched by them."
When Hsiao first arrived in America in late August — his first time in the United States — he was overwhelmed and a bit nervous.
"I think I can see many new things and I can learn some culture," said Hsiao, adding that he's excited to improve his English and attend school. "I think this program can let me grow up a bit more independent; this is the first thing I can do by myself."
Carl remembers taking him back to the house from the airport and seeing the awe Hsiao expressed at all the street signs that were in English.
"I think it takes a brave soul to do this," Carl said. "Nic really has a great sense of humor and I think as he gets more comfortable with his language, he'll get more and more comfortable being himself. We can already see who's under it — he's very funny."
Since Hsiao's arrival, the Brodys said they've exposed him to new types of food, and are looking forward to showing him around and taking him to locations they haven't explored since their two high school daughters were younger. They plan to take him to a pumpkin patch and visit Becky's mother in Bend for Thanksgiving.
Hsiao also recently tried homemade pizza, avocados and blackberries for the first time.
"I'm having a great time showing him new foods because things are different," Becky said.
"We'll know Nic is completely comfortable when he says, 'Ugh, that's awful," Carl added.
But more than anything, the Brodys see this exchange as a learning experience for Hsiao and themselves.
"Nic can learn about how we raise our kids and our culture, and we can learn about his family and how he's been raised," Becky said. "I think it'll be nice, really exciting months that we're together."
Hsiao will be taking a regular course load at WLHS as well. He's signed up for English, U.S. history, court sports, geology and computer assisted design and physics because he's interested in engineering as a career.
Hsiao enjoys biking, playing guitar and hopes to learn to surf and ski while he's in the U.S.
During Hsiao's exchange, the Rotary has excursions planned with other Rotary exchange students, including a three-day orientation at the beach and a trip to San Francisco.