Life Changing Foreign Exchange


Foreign Exchange programs are an opportunity to broaden your horizons and grow as a person all while experiencing a new culture. Seniors Katia Brinsmade and Frank Leotta took advantage of these opportunities when they chose to embark on travel abroad programs. Brinsmade spent six months studying in Paris, France, while Leotta spent three weeks learning about Spanish culture in Benicasim, Spain.

So why study abroad? Brinsmade explained, “I was ready for a change, something new, and I wanted to see a different country and broaden my horizons.” “I always liked to travel and thought it would be fun to explore a different culture,” Leotta shared.

During her time in France, Brinsmade attended a public lycée, or high school, where most of her courses were focused on literature and history. She feels that being surrounded by the language and being forced to speak it every day in order to communicate on the most basic level dramatically improved her ability to speak it. “I now consider myself fluent,” she explained.

Leotta also feels that his time in Spain improved his use of the language. Although he does not consider himself fluent yet, he feels that being around people speaking Spanish 24-7 has really improved his comprehension.

Both students commented on how different the culture abroad was.  “Everyone there was so much friendlier and people would come up to me in the street and have a conversation for no reason,” stated Leotta. Brinsmade also commented on how the teenagers in France were much more involved and interested in world events then they are here in America.

During her time there, all of the local high schools took part in a protest in which they refused to attend schools in support of two students who they believed had been unjustly deported. “All of the high schools protested for two weeks straight and I don’t think that would happen in America.”

Both Brinsmade and Leotta are very happy with their decisions to travel abroad. They both feel that despite any difficulties they faced, either in leaving home or in actually adjusting to the culture once they arrived, that the experience was well worth it and both would go back “in a heartbeat.”

Both students also feel that anyone who is presented with the opportunity to do foreign exchange should definitely go for it. “It really helped me grow as person,” Brinsmade explained. If you yourself are interested in foreign exchange, you can talk to Ms. Kerns with the Rotary Club.