Former exchange students make return visit to Tyrone

The Tyrone Rotary Club helps to bring students from all over the world to our small town of Tyrone each year with the Youth Exchange Program.
The program is beneficial, not only to the students who are able to travel to the United States and learn about life in a small American town, but also to the youth of this town. Meeting and spending time with teenagers from other countries is an excellent opportunity for Tyrone students to learn about other cultures.
Often those in the exchange program build friendships that last a lifetime.
Recently, two Tyrone Area High School exchange students returned to the area to visit friends and families from their time spent here.
In 1998, Tyrone was lucky enough to host two students from abroad, including Franci Bieri from Switzerland and Juan Carlos Gamboa from Venezuela.
Both Bieri and Gamboa traveled to Tyrone over the Christmas holiday to reacquaint themselves with old friends.
Gamboa traveled with his brother, Carlos, just before Christmas and Bieri arrived on Christmas day, spending two weeks in the area.
“It’s a lot of fun to catch up with friends,” said Bieri, “but it’s hard to find enough time to get back in touch with everyone.”
Shopping, eating out, watching movies, sight seeing and just spending time with friends is how much of the pair’s time was spent.
“I could have went anywhere in the United States for my exchange year,” Bieri explained, “but if I ended up in New York City, I wouldn’t have seen how most Americans live. I wanted to come to a small town.”
Bieri and Gamboa’s stay in Tyrone overlapped for two days.
“It’s really nice I was able to see Juan and his brother,” said Bieri.
“It’s funny because we didn’t know that we were both going to be here at the same time. I told Juan I was coming to Tyrone and he said ‘me too’.”
When the visiting was over and it was time to head home, Bieri said she was excited to get back home, but was glad for the time to share with friends.
“There’s just so much I want to take back,” said Bieri after a shopping trip in Altoona as she loaded her luggage with Pop Tarts, marshmallows, peanut butter and gum.
Since 1927, students and host families all over the world have had their horizons broadened and their lives enriched by the generosity of Rotary\’s Youth Exchange program. Administered by Rotary clubs, districts and multidistrict groups, the program today involves more than 163 countries and over 8,000 students each year.
Students participating in the Youth Exchange Program have the opportunity to learn a new language, a new way of living and a lot about themselves. They will also be able to teach others about their country, culture and ideas.
The first documented exchanges date back to 1927, when the Rotary Club of Nice, France, initiated exchanges with European students. Exchanges between clubs in California, USA, and Latin American countries began in 1939, and exchange activities spread to the eastern United States in 1958. In 1972, the RI Board of Directors agreed to recommend Youth Exchange to clubs worldwide as a worthwhile international activity that promotes global peace and understanding.
Hosting a Youth Exchange student from another country is a challenge — and an opportunity. Involvement with an exchange student challenges a host family to become familiar with another culture, while providing the opportunity to share a student\’s hopes and ambitions. These challenges and opportunities promise to enrich the lives of every member of the family.