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Bellevue hosts first Nepalese student and there's more to the story than that...

Namaste (Hello in Nepali)! My name is Seema Tamang and I was a Rotary Youth Exchange student with blindness from Kathmandu, Nepal during the 2016-2017 school year. I was the first outbound exchange student ever to come from Nepal. My main host-family for the school year was the Rose family with Rob & Gina Rose as my host mom and dad. I had second host-family with whom I also lived with - the Camrud family consisting of Matt and Christine as my host mom and dad and Adam and Andrew, my younger host brothers.

Home life in the USA was much different than it was in Nepal. In my host-family’s home I had my own room, which was a new experience for me. I was used to sleeping together with my sisters at home and at school with the other girls in the dormitory bedroom. I quickly got used to it but I’ll admit I was a little scared at first. My family home back in Nepal is quite small, so being in a large home was very different and exciting as I got to explore every room and orient myself so that I could move about safely and quickly. It didn’t take me too long to be able to find everything by myself. It seems funny now that when I first arrived I asked my host-mom where the water bucket and pitcher was for flushing the toilet, like we do in Nepal!

We always wash dishes by hand in Nepal and I had never experienced a dishwasher before. However, I quickly learned how to load and empty the dishwasher to be of help to my host family. Using the washer and dryer was also a new experience for me. My host family put Braille dots on the appliances so that I could learn how to use them.

From my exchange experience I have made great improvements with my English skills and I am now able to more easily converse and be friendly with people. It helped become me more adaptable and able to adjust to different circumstances. I am also more comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people.

I had many amazing experiences during my exchange year. Sledding in the snow, ice-skating, horseback riding, pop-music concerts and American holidays. One that particularly stands out was my visit to the Bellevue, Washington Police Department. On my birthday I was totally surprised to be picked up at home by Captain Lisa from the Bellevue Police Dept. and given a ride in a police car to the station where I found out how the police department worked. I checked out a police motorcycle, practiced self-defense on a rubber dummy and got to go into a police holding cell. I had an fantastic tour!

Another totally new experience for me was that my host family had a pet cat named Kumari. It took me quite a while to get comfortable with cats as no one keeps a cat as a pet in Nepal. My host family put a bell on Kumari’s collar which helped me know where she was. We eventually became good friends. However, my true love is dogs and I was lucky to meet many fun and friendly ones. I got to meet ‘Bella’ the Bulldog, ‘Lilly’ the King Charles Spaniel and ‘Grant’, a guide dog in training. Lilly was the first dog I met and she became my favorite. I miss her so much now that I’m back home. In the future I would love to have a guide-dog to help me and to be my furry friend!

With school I was so surprised that we didn’t have to wear uniforms, that students get to choose their own classes, that we had to move from class-to-class after each period and we got two days off each week (we only get Saturday off in Nepal). Each teacher assigned a fellow student to be my sighted-guide to help me move from class-to-class which helped me make many wonderful friends.

Halloween was my favorite festival. My host mom helped me dress up as a cat and I went door-to-door around.our neighborhood with some of my friends, knocking on doors and getting loads of candy!

My advice to other exchange students is to come prepared to change your perspective, get new ideas, become more confident and become more independent.

Seema Tamang

Rotary Youth Exchange Student 2016-2017

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