Editor’s note: Emma’s host mother and exchange program organization asked that her last name and city where she is from remain anonymous per the agency’s policy.
Emma is experiencing a typical year as an American high school student with a full class schedule, cheerleading practice and hanging out with friends.
She’s like any other 18-year-old attending Sequim High School except she’s an exchange student from Belgium that has already graduated from high school.
Emma said she chose to participate in an exchange program because she wanted to improve her English and meet new people before attending college.
“In Belgium, we learn the rules (of English) but we don’t really learn to speak,” she said.
She studied English in school for several years, but learning to speak it in the United States was much different. Since she arrived in Sequim last August, however, Emma said her English has improved. She also can speak French, Dutch and German.
“I think that was her main goal was to really work on her English,” Kim King, Emma’s host mother said.
“Already she’s made huge strides.”
While Emma already is a high school grad, she is taking a complete set of classes at Sequim High and is required to maintain a C grade average for her exchange program.
She said at Sequim High she is enjoying photography and floral design classes and hopes to take cooking classes as well.
Her schooling in Belgium was similar to Sequim’s school year with classes starting in September and ending in June, but the hours of school were different, she said.
Back home she said her classes would get out much later around 4:45 p.m. and she really could only hang out with friends on Friday nights and the weekends.
Sequim life and hobbies
Emma said the city she is from in Belgium is larger than Sequim but she likes the friendly people here and Sequim’s downtown area.
“It’s beautiful here,” she said.
“The people are really friendly.”
Emma said she is loving her host family experience and will live with King and her family — including six other children — for one year.
King said Emma was chosen from a long list of possible applicants through Cultural Homestay International and that she has meshed with the family well.
“We picked Emma out of many profiles because her personality meshed with ours,” King said.
“She has bonded so much with the little girls so that’s been really fun for me.”
In her free time, Emma said she enjoys cheerleading for the high school and playing soccer.
“They don’t have cheerleading or soccer in Belgium,” Emma said.
“We have soccer but for boys not for girls and we don’t have cheerleading at all.”
Her host mother also serves as her high school cheer coach and said Emma picked up the sport quickly.
“That’s been fun because I get to see a different side of her too,” King said.
She added that Emma picks up extra practices and is easy-going when it comes to coaching her.
In the future, Emma said she wants to become lawyer and hopes to visit San Diego and Miami while she is living in America. She said she visited Seattle earlier this year and fell in love with the city.
Emma said she is the oldest of three sisters in her family and that she is paving the way for her middle sister who also is interested in doing and exchange program.