Originally Posted by Odessa Record.
Wanting to improve their English and wishing to experience life in America, Amandine Deulin and Tran Khan Linh Ho left their homes across the sea to immerse themselves in the town’s culture and into their studies at Reardan High School.
Deulin grew up in the medieval city of Thuin, Belgium, a French community built in the 12th century. It is known for its narrow streets, hanging gardens and a famous church belfry. Already speaking fluent French and Dutch, she wanted to improve her English and to experience things “she saw in the movies.” Before she left Belgium, a friend gave her a piece of advice that she has embraced. “When someone asks you to do something, always say ‘yes.'” Deulin lives on a farm with her host parents, Brad and JoLynn Ray and their children.
“The Rays are my second family,” she said. When they suggested she show one of their pigs at the Moses Lake FFA Show, she asked, “Why would I do that?” She ended up showing Frenchy the pig, and now cares for him. She also listens to country music, and after being a vegetarian while living with her parents, eats red meat.
When she arrived in Reardan, it surprised Deulin the town was so small and that, unlike in Europe, the highway ran through the center of town. She immediately liked Reardan and committed to experiencing life in America and getting the most out of her senior year. “You don’t have to go to school in a big city to have fun,” she said. She immediately signed up to be a cheerleader for the football team. Though she trained as a gymnast for 14 years in Belgium, she had never been on a cheer team as “it’s an American thing.”
“I wanted to be a cheerleader just like in the movies,” she said. She admitted she had never seen a football game until her cheerleading debut. “I had no idea what was going on during the game but did the cheers the girls told me to do.” By the end of the season, she understood the basics of the game and believed she could explain them if she had to. When basketball season started, she was named co-captain of the cheer team.
Deulin enjoys all of her classes but particularly likes the conditioning class taught by coach Eric Nikkola. “I like to lift weights,” she said, “and am now running on the track team.”
Ho, who goes by the name Kalin, came to Reardan from the coastal city Quy Nhon City, Vietnam, a city of approximately 500,000 people known for its long beaches and majestic mountains. Ho viewed the International Student Exchange Program as an opportunity to “step out of my comfort zone and improve my English.” “Reardan is not a dynamic town,” she said. “It is not lively, but it is a peaceful town. I love the fresh air. It feels safe here.” She lives with David and Gretchen Neal and their kids in Edwall and noted, “there are a lot of wheat fields and barns there but no Walmarts.”
In Vietnam, Ho attended school six days per week. She frequently left her home at 6 a.m. and did not return until 9 p.m. In Reardan, she doesn’t feel the academic pressures she felt in Quy Nhon City. “Here, school is more fun,” she said. “You can play sports and develop more socially. I especially love all the school holidays.” Ho took part in volleyball and “adored Amber Whitman and the other coaches.” She admitted the exchange student experience “isn’t as fancy as the video showed,” but she is grateful for the friendliness of her teachers and for the social skills taught to her by her host family. Ho believes being an exchange student has given her greater confidence, independence and the ability to express herself better. She has really loved experiencing life in America.
Both Deulin and Ho will return to their homes at the end of the school year. Both hope to return to Reardan one day.
“I’d love to see the Neals again,” Ho said.
“It will be sad leaving my family and all my friends here,” Deulin said. “I have enjoyed everything I’ve done and can’t wait to return.”
This success story shows how powerful student exchange programs can be, and how students and host families can benefit. International Student Exchange is dedicated to bringing the world closer together.
If you would like to help an exchange students dreams come true, we invite you to read more about hosting a foreign exchange student. If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our host family FAQ page. You can also read testimonials from our past and current host families. When you feel ready, complete our host family interest form and our area representative will get in touch with you.
You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives! Help match host families and exchange students and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.