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Posted: Jun 26, 2009  11:16

Brazilian Exchange Student Feels at Home in America


Although dark haired, dark eyed, 17-year-old Bianca Salles originally wanted to go to Australia, she is very happy that her path led her here to Bonners Ferry.

"I was looking into becoming an exchange student so I could go to a foreign country and learn English," she said, her speech softly accented from her native language of Portuguese. "My father's friend is a member of Rotary in Brazil. He sent me an application and the website. I had to take a test with general knowledge, an English test and a psychological test. I also had to fill out a whole bunch of papers and have a doctor's appointment."

Bianca said that one day she was at home studying for a test when she received a letter from David McIntosh. She started crying because she was afraid she wouldn't know anyone and her English was "horrible," but David's letter was very comforting. In the letter, David introduced himself and his family, and said that she was going to stay with them so she began to feel a lot better. She got on the Internet and googled Bonners Ferry.

"It was very different from my country because I am from the town of Rio das Ostras in the state of Rio de Janero," she said. "I was really excited to see snow.

This winter was my first time seeing snow."

Before she left Brazil, Bianca went to a weekend-long camp with other foreign exchange students as an introduction to the Rotary Youth Exchange program, which allowed her to meet other exchange students and taught her about polio and the rules of the program. She met many nice people and participated in fun activities at the camp.

Interestingly, an exchange student from Cranbrook arrived to live with the Salles family two days before Bianca left on her trip.

She arrived in Boundary County on August 26, 2008. She stayed with David and Devorah McIntosh for the first two months.

"The first week was very hard," she said. "I didn't know anybody and my English was bad and I didn't have friends. Then I started to meet new people and they were very nice to me."

Bianca then stayed with Loren and Cindy Orr and their 16-year-old daughter, Bella, for the next six months. Getting to know Bella was very helpful to Bianca as far as school.

"At first, I was confused in the classes," she commented, "but the teachers were completely awesome, so then I had a great time in all my classes. I like school better here than Brazil because there are so many more opportunities. There, it is so focused on college. Here, there are activities like sports, dances, labs and assemblies. It's so fun here."

With the Orrs, Bianca got to explore Disneyland, Universal Studios and Las Vegas. She also traveled to a gathering of the district foreign exchange students in Coeur d'Alene as well as to Rossland in Canada for a ski trip.

Bianca has moved back to the McIntosh home for her final two months and feels that she grew up a lot during the year she has been away from her family.

"I came here a little girl and I'm going back more mature," she emphasized. "One thing I will never forget is that I think we can know a little bit about the world in just the small things, like knowing a little bit of the people and receiving a little bit about the culture."

Bianca will be leaving Idaho on July 5.

"I'm happy and sad to be leaving," she said. "It was very hard at first but now I feel like it is my home here, too. I want to go back because I miss my family and friends, but I hope I can come back some day. I could not have been so successful without all the people here who helped me… my parents and my host families. I want to say thank you to David because I couldn't have been so successful without his help and his care for me. I also thank Rotary for being so supportive. Being in America made me feel like home."


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