Exchange student shares...
In preparation for her school-year-long stay in the United States that began in late summer, 17-year-old Tara Sarno was told that most American people were a very giving lot and that she would need more warm clothing.
"And it's true," said Sarno, a high school senior. "So many people here are so generous and so open. They give you things, they help you, and they don't expect anything back. In my country, Belgium, if someone gives you something, they expect something in return.
"And I didn't believe it when I was told that I needed more warm clothing by my teacher. In Belgium we don't wear or have the need for any sweatshirts. We just have a shirt, like this, (as she pointed to her cotton T-shirt-like top) and maybe a coat and we are all set."
Sarno is one of six foreign exchange students who are taking classes at the high school and living in River Falls with host families.
"River Falls is a beautiful place," she says.
She has found the Brions, her host family, to be warm, loving and inclusive. Sarno also spoke highly of her own peer group.
"Even teens are nice here," she said, explaining that a fellow member of the local swim club, of which Sarno is a member, offered to give her rides home from practice.
Other niceties that the young visitor has experienced here: "Hugs," she said.
Sarno explained that in Belgium the "normal" way to exchange a welcoming gesture or greeting is with a kiss on the cheek. But now, having lived in the U.S. for a few months, she finds hugging more to her liking.
Sarno also likes the amount of snow that's fallen in River Falls so far, but not necessarily the cold.
"In Belgium, maybe two inches of snow will fall, and the next day it is all gone -- melted," she said. "Here the snow stays and it is beautiful. The weather is too cold, but you get used to it."
Read more about Sarno's experience as an exchange student in the Dec. 24 print edition of the River Falls Journal. Look for more stories on exchange students at River Falls High School in subsequent editions of the paper. Five more young people from other countries are visiting this year: Elena Martinez from Spain, Camelia Amour from France, David Benitez from Spain, Jose Obregon from Peru and Amanda Fernandez from Brazil.