Hometown: Gahanna, Ohio
School: Gahanna Lincoln High School
Sponsor Club: Gahanna, Ohio
Host District: 4455
Host Club: The Rotary Club of San Borja Sur
Hola hola! I’m Noelle Geno and I’m from Gahanna, Ohio. For the 2015-2016 exchange year, I will be in Lima, Peru! This is going to be an unforgettable year for me as I will grow mentally, socially, and maybe even physically (because of the amazing food). In the United States, I attend Gahanna Lincoln High School. I am doing exchange during what would have been my junior year at Gahanna. I am really into performing arts and I hope that I will have many opportunities to perform in Lima. I am hispanic on my paternal side of the family, so it is very important to me that I improve in the Spanish language by the end of my exchange. My family values knowing multiple languages and having a good education, and I have taken pride in these values and hope to expand my fluidity in many languages around the world. This will be my first time leaving the United States and I am very nervous, but extremely excited for the opportunity that D6690 has provided me. Thank you to Gahanna Rotary for sponsoring me and to San Borja Sur Rotary for taking me under your wing! Ciao!
Monthly letters to Gahanna Rotary club (my sponsor club!)
Hello Gahanna Rotary!
I’m writing to you all the way from……You guessed it. My bedroom! ’Tis the life of an exchange student, I tell you.
I can’t remember when I last sent an email to the club about my life, so I am going to be kind of general about what’s happened since the beginning of January.
I had fun on New Years with my host family and an exchange student friend. There were a lot of new traditions for me, one of them being to run around the block with a suitcase and that signified “to a year of adventure”. I didn’t take my suitcase outside because I was getting ready to switch families, so I took my American flag and my host mom commended me saying it made the “run” more international. My friend and I made pancakes and Mac&Cheese to add to the family dinner. Everyone liked the pancakes (because I am an unsung pancake master) and the Mac&Cheese was a hit (as I expected). My exchange friend is from Germany and while she wanted to contribute a German platter to the table, she couldn’t because we didn’t have the “authentic German materials”.
From January 20th to the 2nd of February, I was traveling throughout the northern-coast of Peru and I was able to go to Ecuador. In Ecuador we went to Salinas and Guayaquil. It was such a spectacular and marvelous trip. It was so relaxing and calm and very much needed.
After taking some online tests, it appears that I have achieved Spanish fluency. If someone told me last year that it would take 6 months to achieve fluency in my second language, after only having 2 years of the language in school, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Or maybe I would’ve. I can be pretty gullible. Nevertheless, there’s a Rotary Spanish test coming up this month and I’m excited to see what happens. Honestly, most everyone on exchange in Peru (currently) is nearing fluency, or at least comfortability in having a conversation..
From March 3-6, I will be in the Amazon. During my trip, I will be able to swim with pink dolphins, go Piranha fishing, play with sloths and monkeys, and go night boating. I will be dousing myself in bug spray as not to contract Zika or Malaria. Pray for me!
I have been ticketed for my coming home. I am leaving at the last possible minute (11:53 PM) on June 30th and will be at CMH around 4 PM on July 1st. As of right now, I have 4 months and 21 days left and I’m excited to see what my time left brings me.
Hello Gahanna Rotary!
I hope that each and every one of you had a really great Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year!
So, to start off my report I will let you know how my holidays went and how I rang in the New Year.
Thanksgiving isn’t really celebrated outside of the United States culture. Usually, there is a Rotarian in Peru that does a special Thanksgiving dinner for the American exchange students, but this year it “slipped her mind” and there was no special dinner. However, my host mother bought a rotisserie chicken and french fries (which is actually a dish in Peru and my go-to when I don’t know what to order) and my host family and I had a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner. It meant a lot to me that she went out of her way to help me feel more at home and so I didn’t miss out on too many of my “normal” experiences.
December flew by. I graduated from my host school in Peru. I was given a special pin from the school and a diploma. I was so happy to be able to have graduated with all of my friends. It was really nice when my name was called on stage and people cheered for me and were yelling my name. It was an emotional moment.
2 days later, I had my first prom ever and it was Peruvian which made it all the more unique. Prom in the US is considered one of the most important moments in a person’s life, at least in my generation, and I’m glad that I didn’t get to miss the opportunity. All the families and alumni were expected to be at the school around 7:45 for a cocktail party and to take pictures. Around 9:30-10 we boarded charter buses to be driven to our prom location (without the parents and families). Once at the party house, we had dinner and after dinner all the dancing started and prom didn’t end until 6:00 AM the next day. It was one of the most fabulous experiences of my life and I will never forget it. American high schools have a thing or two to learn about prom.
The rest of December was a mixture of sleeping in and ordering pizza every other day. I went out with my friends some, but I felt like I needed to catch up on my sleep, as most exchange students do, believe it or not.
For Christmas, 2 of my friends invited me to their houses to spend the holiday with them and while it would’ve been nice to go, I felt like I needed to stay with my host family and spend Christmas with them. It would only be fair. On Christmas Eve, the tradition is to have dinner at around 10-11, maybe at midnight in some households. We had turkey, amongst other things, for dinner and it was so juicy and so absolutely delicious that I think I dreamed about it. Who knew that Peruvians do a 1000% better job at TURKEY than Americans do? We have a holiday DEDICATED to it! At midnight, there are fireworks. Everywhere. They’re actually illegal in Peru but I’ve discovered that most people in Peru don’t care about the laws sometimes and so it didn’t really matter. So, on Christmas Day at around 1-2 AM, we opened presents. I got a pair of shoes from my host mom, soap from my host aunt, a wallet from the maid we have, and earrings from a host cousin. It felt good to be with family, but after having been up so late socializing I was extremely tired and decided to head to bed. Most everyone was up until 5 AM and no one ever turned off the radio, so it sounded like I was in a club. Christmas Day was spent with my friend and her family and we had leftovers from the night before.
Being out of school, I have had a lot of free time so I have been volunteering as a tutor to help Chinese students practice/learn English. It’s a nice way to pass the time and meet new people. I won’t be going back to school until the next academic year starts in March. I have also been studying Portuguese for about 5 hours daily. It’s so so so so so similar to Spanish that it’s very simple to pick up and I have been able to practice with some of my Brazilian friends. Maybe I’ll come back from exchange being fluent in TWO LANGUAGES. Imagine that.
For New Years, I was planning on going out with some friends, but that fell through kind of last minute so I invited an exchange student friend over and we spent the holiday together. I bought bags of pancake mix and boxes of Macaroni and Cheese and we added these 2 dishes to our familial New Years Eve dinner. There was chicken and French fries and pancakes and Mac and Cheese and while the array looked very strange, it was absolutely delicious.
Today, but yesterday by the time you hear this, I will change host families. I am excited to see a new lifestyle and be in a new area with new people, but I am sad to leave my beloved host mother. I love her so much and we have gotten so close. She told me that I am always welcome in her host house and I will definitely take advantage of this opportunity.
At the end of the month, I have my 2nd Rotary trip. We will be traveling throughout the northern regions of Peru and we will go into Ecuador. The trip is entirely coastal which is LOVELY and I am excited to see the beautiful beaches of this country. In March, there is a trip to the Amazon that I will hopefully take advantage of. In April or May there is a trip to Nasca and to this island off the coast of Peru. I’m hoping to go on all of the trips to experience as much as possible.
Believe it or not, I had to have a friend help me write this message to you! I am forgetting English so quickly and only Spanish verbs were coming to mind when I was recounting my past 2 months of my exchange. It helps that all my Peruvian friends are fluent in French and English as well as Spanish.
I’ll be coming home June 30 and it will be here so fast, but I don’t want my exchange to ever end.
Thanks again for your continued support!
Hi Gahanna Rotary!
Wow, it’s been 2 months since I have left! Well, 2 months and 12 days to be exact.
I left around 7 PM on August 31st and with some delays in Dallas, I arrived in Lima around 7:30 AM on September 1st. I had a really special welcome by my host mom and the Peruvian Exchange president at the airport. I had no trouble finding them as they had a huge sign saying “Welcome Noelle” with a background of beautiful pink cherry blossoms.
My first couple days were… weird. My mood was weird because it was overcast everyday (as it always is in Lima) and I felt like my mood depended on the position of the sun. However, I got really acquainted with my host mom and her and I are pretty close. I tried a lot of Peruvian food in my first couple of days.
My host family and I have an excellent relationship. I just have a host mom and my host aunt and host grandma also live in the house, but primarily my host mom. She is the best ever and past Peruvian Exchange students have told me that I am so fortunate to have her because she’s known for being the best.
I started school on September 4th and was without a uniform so I stood out more than I should have but I had a really easy time settling into my school. I have friends at my school and they are always looking to help me and always invite me places. There are 6 other Rotary Exchange students at my school and 2 of them are in my class. There are 2 from Germany, 2 from France, 1 from Taiwán, and 1 other boy, Steven Burton, from Hillsboro, Ohio in 6670. We met at Otterbein and it was nice to see him again. There are actually a couple here from Ohio-Eerie so I have met some familar faces.
When I got to Peru, my first thought was that I needed to get as involved as posible with my district and my club for the huge favor they did for me by accepting me late. I have had many opportunities of community service and have done EVERY SINGLE EVENT with my club and district. My active participation paid off when I was invited as the ONLY Exchange student in ALL of Peru to have lunch with the district governer. Peru is just one district (4455), and so I felt so honored. I was also invited to go on a special trip with my club, along with 9 other of the 24 students in my club to go to Huaraz, Peru. We were chosen because we’ve been the most active in the club, have good reports from our host families, and have improved our language skills the most.
In the 2 months that I have been here, I feel that my Spanish has improved a lot and I feel like I was very prepared with the Spanish I had taken at Gahanna.
From October 14th to 25th, I was traveling through the southern part of Peru on the first official Exchange student trip. The highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu and that was SO AMAZING. SUCH A SPECIAL EXPERIENCE.
October 14th was also my birthday and I celebrated it the Peruvian way (hint: that means I got a cake smashed into my face)
The school year is currently coming to an end as school starts in March and ends in December as it does in most Southern Hemisphere countries. I will start university in March 2016 and I will be home by the end of June/beginning of July.
I haven’t experienced much culture shock as I am used to the majority of the cultural things they do here because of my hispanic grandparents. I am, however, beginning to forget English. When I do speak English, it’s weird. Especially in English class in school because the Peruvians have better English than I do, go figure.
The food is pretty amazing and I hope that when I come home, I can somehow finagle something with Jefferson to have your lunches all be Peruvian so you can get a taste (pun intended) of my life here in Peru.
I want to thank Rob Sander, Sandy Viers (even though she’s in Florida now), and Joe Eckert for being my biggest supporters from the club. I would like to thank Gahanna Rotary as a whole for agreeing to sponsor me on this amazing journey and for being a pretty cool club. I kind of miss the organization of the Gahanna meetings, hahah! Our meetings are about an hour in Ohio but they’re like 3 here in Peru and there’s not food. (Exchange students, aka me, love food in case you didn’t know). Also, thank you for the money you graciously gave me for my trips here in Peru. That was very generous and very much appreciated.
I also have a YouTube channel but it’s pretty dormant at the moment.
I hope to write to you again soon and that you enjoyed my report!
Kisses and hugs and more hugs and well wishes from the southern hemisphere!
PS: I apologize for any spelling errors as I am using a keyboard that is autocorrecting a lot of my words to Spanish and sometimes I don’t notice.