Golden K hears about being an exchange student

GOLDEN K MEMBER Orice Walters, right, with guest speaker Kallie Weecks, who talked about her time as an exchange student to Italy.

KINGSFORD — Whoever is singing “Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” there is a driveway about 20 feet long and a shovel waiting for you. Thanks to the drivers out there doing their best to clear our roads, the plows and the sanders. Though we all want our roads cleared “yesterday,” we do appreciate these people.

Monday’s meeting broke out into Christmas songs, with Alyce Derwinski on piano and Orice Walters directing. With a lit Christmas tree standing nearby, the Golden Kers were “in the mood” for Christmas music that resounded throughout the building.

Guests welcomed included a four-generation family — Bruce Stuart with his daughter Stacey Buchcusky, granddaughter Stacey Lantagne and great-granddaughter Kallie Weecks. Kallie had lots of support and love to help with her presentation.

Sue Proudfit won the 50-50 drawing. Happy Dollars included thanks from Lois Outcelt for the safety of her son and family, with little damage from the recent earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska. Leon Gospoderk was happy to tell everyone he won’t be here for the rest of this winter. Happy Birthday to Bob Bowman, Dec. 1; Phyllis Galeazzi, Dec. 7; and Aileen Machus, Dec. 8.

Walters, program chairwoman, introduced guest speaker Kallie Weecks, a student at Kingsford High School. With the help of a video, she gave the group a brief tour of her trip to Italy. Going to another country is an adventure; however, going as a foreign exchange student is quite another venture.

Spending a year in Italy, living with a host family and going to a school where English is a second language can be challenging for anyone. Weecks was 17 at the time and though her adventure began with many other foreign exchange students, it was quite an undertaking. With 12 possible placements, she was notified Calabria, Italy, was the choice.

All things start somewhere and with Weecks, it was the Rotary International Rye Program. There would be several steps to be followed before any acceptance. First was a conference in Minocqua, Wis., with 26 other student from the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. Applications online involved a doctor, dentist and 20 other signatures plus the signature of a resident teacher, just to begin the paperwork. Another conference included many other students and a language test.

Conference 3 was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with many other students from the Midwest and Canada. Making friends along the way and getting a new button on her vest each time, she said the excitement was building.

Once she learned her host family, Kallie prepared to leave her American family and head off the Italy to meet and live a year abroad.

It all came together for her in 2017. Leaving her family here was difficult but overshadowed by the excitement of going overseas. She did not speak Italian at that point; however, her new family did speak some English.

It was a wish coming true. She went to school there, learned the language and customs, shared Thanksgiving, Christmas and had many other adventures going about the area.

She went with trumpet in hand to a musical school, which also included the usual “other classes” — history (European), math, language, etc. Thirteen classes in all, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and also on Saturdays. Classes were different each time. What happened on Monday did not happen the same the next week, she said.

Being able to travel and visit many other cities throughout Italy added to her excitement, she said.

Leaving this Italian family behind after living there a year made it tough to say goodbye, but she also was anxious to get back to the U.S. and her own home.

Orice Walters had this thought for the day, “Let’s remember to show a little kindness toward each other. Everyone’s going through something — everyone. Soften your heart a bit. Bite your tongue. Say a prayer for others. Gentleness is underrated strength.”

The Golden Throats will sing Tuesday at ManorCare.

The general meeting Monday will be with Lois Chartier. She has a speaker bringing the group information on “vaping.” This is a big “thing” with the young people of today.