Fourteen international exchange students got a wet and windy introduction to Washington’s “Wet Coast” as they gathered near Ocean Shores last weekend for a combination of orientation meetings and a public service project for the Academic Year in the U.S.A. (Ayusa) program.
Shannon Clark, an Ayusa senior regional director, took the high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to the Ocean Breeze Resort campground.
Saturday morning, they joined local host family Rich and Ashlee Lindquist for a beach cleanup party at the Damon Road beach approach, just north of Ocean Shores. The Lindquists are hosting 16-year-old Indonesian student Muhammad Nabil Eralsyah, who just began his senior year at North Beach High School.
Clark, who got involved with Ayusa by hosting a student 11 years ago, said community service is a key part of the program, and something the students have fun with. Despite the fact that Saturday was windy and rainy, the young visitors seemed to enjoy their morning on the beach.
After all were once again warm and dry in the campground lodge, they answered questions about their experiences and reasons to spend the better part of a year halfway around the world from their homes.
For Shintya Sembiring, a 17-year-old from Indonesia who is a senior at White River High School in Buckley, the motivation is “to simply get out of my comfort zone, and of course get to know more about this very different culture of America. And I feel like I’ll even learn more about myself.”
Several said becoming fluent in the English language was a goal. Simone Diedrick, 15 and a junior at Onalaska High School in Ethel, said, “I’m very interested in the American culture and their traditions. I want to improve my English and meet new people.”
Asked what has surprised them here so far, many said it was the friendliness of the people.
“People are very nice, way more than in France,” said Maxine Marchand, a 16-year-old from Paris who is a junior at River Ridge High School in Lacey.
More information about the organization is available online at www.ayusa.org.