When Nathan Schmidli decided to leave his hometown of Leytron, Switzerland, and go on exchange, he had no idea that he would end up in Hood River. He had Texas, California, and Florida in mind, but is now happily attending Hood River Valley High School.

The French-speaking 16-year-old is enrolled as a senior at HRVHS. He is one of the three students staying here for the year as part of the exchange program Education First (EF) and lives with the Marble family, including parents Donald and Kirstin, and siblings, Zach, Audrey, and Sophia.

Nathan left Switzerland on Aug. 3 to travel to the U.S. He a few days in New York at an EF orientation, where he got to participate in activities with other exchange students arriving from Europe.

Arriving in a foreign country and speaking a second language is no easy task. After only three years of classes, Nathan admittedly didn’t understand much English during the beginning of his exchange. But he learned, and now speaks and comprehends, much more than he did just five and a half months ago.

“If you’re friendly in the beginning you’re fine,” said Nathan. For him, this is the key to being an exchange student and making friends in a new place. Aryan Agrawal, a rotary exchange student from India and good friend of Nathan’s, agreed. “He’s very friendly, and a good friend! Savage, to me. But we both are savage to each other so that’s fine.”

Nathan is enjoying his experience as an exchange student, and has loved learning about the culture of the U.S. “I’m having a really good time here,” said Nathan. He has had the chance to travel and explore since his trip to New York, including visits to Portland and Seattle. He has also been quad riding and on an adventure to Sky High Sports in Tigard.

Of course, the opportunity of long-term exchange means being away from family and friends for a year. “I got homesick in December,” said Nathan, “because it’s when you have a lot of holidays.” Now, he is no longer homesick but does miss his family and friends back in Leytron.

Nathan’s home is a small village in the south of Switzerland. He spends his time playing sports with friends, including tennis, bowling, racquetball, swimming, and lots of soccer. He played on the HRVHS soccer team in the fall. Traveling to his friends to play sports is a little more difficult in Leytron because the houses are farther apart in this remote part of the country. Nathan notices the system in Hood River of street blocks.

He also notices the lack of good bread. And pasta. “I eat pasta every day at home,” said Nathan. “It’s sad they don’t have it here much.” However, we in America do have something going for us, and that’s fast food, if you ask him. It’s a lot better here than in Switzerland, without a doubt.

HRVHS French teacher Nicole Goode has enjoyed having Nathan helping in her class. “Often, I’ll have him help me with translating things from English to French,” she said. “I’ll also have him model swiss French pronunciation so that the students can hear authentic speakers of the language and their pronunciation.”

Goode appreciates his easygoing attitude and knows that her students do as well. “He gets along with everyone in the class,” she said. “It’s been great having him in the class … I’m always asking him to chime in about differences and similarities between our two cultures.”

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