Whitefish High School student Hayden Brandt wouldn’t trade anything for the friendships he gained by spending a school year studying in the Netherlands.
“We didn’t speak the same language, we didn’t have the same experiences as each other, but we were all the best of friends,” he said. “Also, I think it made me realize how short life is. I’m just a kid, but that year went by so fast, and I know I’m not going to be this age forever. I need to use my time and go do what I want to do, see what I want to see.”
Whitefish students who have participated in AFS foreign exchange programs talked about how travel has changed their lives during an event last week at the high school. November is International Education Month, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.
The Whitefish program featured presentations by AFS students, a quick update on Montana Model United Nations by Zach Ade, a band performance, and food sampling offered by students of French and Spanish language classes at the high school.
Lilly Butts, who studied in the Seychelles, a group of islands off East Africa, for two weeks, said seeing how another nation values its land and resources will affect how she values her own home.
“In the Seychelles they recently outlawed both plastic bags and Styrofoam containers because they’re so concentrated on preserving what they’re surrounded by, because the island is all they have. I think that since I’ve come back I’ve been able to focus more on how what I do will impact my surroundings and our future as a society,” she said.
In the case of Leo Motti, who’s from Italy and currently taking classes at WHS, his time in Montana has been all about trying new things.
Immediately jumping to always speaking English was a challenge, he said, and joining the Bulldogs soccer team was a huge goal he’s proud of following through on.
The biggest challenge for Motti, however, is one of taste.
“I think the problem is the food,” he said laughing. “I’m kidding, the food is good. I just don’t like your way to cook pasta. But you can learn.”