Students broaden their horizons

European students visit Penticton through Rotary Youth Exchange

Chloe Stevenne

Chloe Stevenne

Belgian exchange student Chloe Stevenne may be in Canada to further her education, but she takes every available opportunity to educate people here about the favourite food there.

“French fries aren’t French fries, they are Belgian fries. That’s something that nobody knows,” said the 18-year-old, who arrived in Penticton in August.

“It was during the Second World War, there were American soldiers in Belgium and they thought they were in France, and they ate for the first time fries, so they called it French fries. But they were in Belgium,” she explained.

“Every time I hear about fries, I say, ‘You know it’s (actually) Belgian fries?”

Stevenne is one of the two most recent visiting students to arrive in the Peach City via the Rotary Youth Exchange program.

She grew up with a younger brother and computer-scientist parents in the village of Boncelles, which is just outside the major city of Leige in the French-speaking, eastern part of Belgium. She’s enrolled in Grade 12 at Penticton Secondary and so far has found school here to be much easier.

“I’m in pre-calculus 12 and what we are learning now is what my sister’s learning in Grade 10 in Belgium. But it’s more fun here,” she said, noting the abundance of school sports, clubs and activities.

Fun is one of the things that attracted Viviana Gussanti to the Rotary Youth Exchange program. That and the chance to learn a new language, meet new people and experience a new culture.

The 17-year-old hails from Guanzate, Italy, a town of about 5,000 people near the Swiss border. Gussanti’s father is a retired carpenter and her mother is an elder assistant, while her 21-year-old brother works as a cook.

Gussanti is registered in Grade 11 at Penticton Secondary and has found Canadian youth to be less outgoing than their Italian peers.

“The people are really shy and it’s hard to meet friends,” she said.

And Gussanti has also noticed that the dress code in Penticton is much more relaxed than where she’s from.

“Here they can wear what they want and they are not judged.”

She misses Italian food — “pasta, lasagne, everything, but I’m happy because it’s a new experience” — and has acquired a taste for a seasonal North American treat: “pumpkin pie. I love it.”