Maxime Mottet encourages teenage students studying abroad not to worry about being far from home.
After all, he said, the benefits of living in a different country outweigh the risks.
Mottet is an 18-year-old foreign exchange student from Belgium living in the Centre Region and attending State College Area High School.
It was made possible through the Rotary Youth Exchange program, which allows him to study oversees for about a year. The international student exchange program is for those 15 to 18 years old.
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“Even if it seems scary, it’s a huge benefit,” Mottethe said. “You learn a lot, gain much independence, and it’s interesting as a teen to get to know other people from elsewhere and learn the language.”
Saturday was the first of a two-day orientation for outbound students held at the Ramada Inn to help them and their families better understand the program.
This year, 11 Centre County students are participating in the program.
District program chairman Carl Hill said students must fill out an application to be eligible.
Students selected for the program must also have good academic standards, a language background, flexibility and adaptability, and must also be a person of character, he added.
Those students are then able to choose five countries they’d like to live in, and the program’s committee does it’s best to accommodate their top choice, Hill said.
“One of the missions is to help them gain cultural experience and get a good understanding of life outside of their home,” he said.
Senior Mary Elliott is among three students from St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy participating in the program. She will study in Belgium and complete a gap year between high school graduation and beginning college.
Elliott, 17, said her inspiration for choosing Belgium is to learn more about the country’s history, and food scene.
But she said she’s not worried about the language barrier as she studies French in school — one of Belgium’s official languages.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Elliott said. “I’m hoping to learn more about myself, and grow in my mentality.”
Students are slated to leave to their respective destinations in August, and live with a host family through the year.
Rotary Youth Exchange
Five Rotary Clubs in Centre County are sponsoring outbound students and hosting inbound students for the 2017-2018 academic year. They are:
Bellefonte Area High School
Leah Simmon, Germany
Isabella Toyos, Spain
Kiwi Van Won, South Korea
Penns Valley Area High School
Maxton Case, Taiwan
Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy
Meghan Caswell, Finland
Mary Elliott, Belgium
Greta Miller, Denmark
State College Area High School
Julia Biberdorf, Brazil
Taylor Butterbaugh, Chile
Jacob Krantweiss, Ecuador
Joy Zhu, Chile