ShareThis Page

Pine-Richland foreign exchange program expands students' horizons

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.
Sisters Marissa Torchia, 14, left, and Rebecca Torchia, 17, are sharing their Pine home for a semester with Nina Koeppllinger, 16, sitting, of Vienna, Austria. All three attend Pine-Richland High School. Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Nina Koepplinger, left, of Vienna, Austria and Nicole Schlotterbeck of Pine each immersed themselves in foreign cultures this year through AFS Intercultural Programs. Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal

Nina Koepplinger, 16, of Vienna, Austria, wanted to see how Americans really live, compared to those in movies and TV shows.

“I wanted to speak English fluently,” said Nina, who arrived in the United States last month to spend a semester at Pine-Richland High School.

Until January, Nina is living with a Pine family selected through AFS Intercultural Programs.

The nonprofit group also arranged for Nicole Schlotterbeck, 17, of Pine — a senior at Pine-Richland High School — to spend six weeks with a family in Japan.

Students and parents can learn more about such travel and study opportunities at AFS Information Night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 17 in the library of Pine-Richland High School.

“AFS has been the leading international high school student exchange program in the United States for 60 years,” said Lauren Super, co-sponsor of the school's Global Relations Club.

Twenty-eight of the school's students have traveled abroad through AFS Intercultural Programs, according to Super.

Ninety students from other countries also have lived with local families while attending Pine-Richland High School.

“There are some wonderful opportunities, including scholarships, that have early fall application dates,” said Jill Brethauer of Richland, a volunteer with AFS Intercultural Programs.

Current and past exchange students will be available during the information night to share experiences.

During her recent summer trip to Asia, Nicole Schlotterbeck lived with a family in suburban Nara, Japan, while she attended a Japanese-language school in Osaka.

“It was the best summer of my life,” Nicole said. “The food was amazing.”

Nicole spoke little Japanese when she left Pittsburgh in June. Now, she thinks she might study the language in college.

“I just love Japan,” she said. “I think their culture is very different — very community based.”

Nicole routinely spent evenings watching TV with her host family — Seki and Yoshimi Sekiawa and their two children. “We watched the news a lot,” she said.

Susan Torchia of Pine, a para-educator at Richland Elementary School, applied in April to host an exchange student through AFS Intercultural Programs. Her daughters — Rebecca Torchia, 17, and Marissa Torchia, 14 — attend Pine-Richland High School.

“We agreed we would give this a try,” Susan Torchia said. “All three of us had to go through background checks.”

A volunteer with AFS International Programs also visited the Torchias' home in Avonlea Estates before the Torchias selected Nina Koepplinger from biographies of available exchange students.

“She's really easy to get along with,” Torchia said.

In Vienna, Nina speaks German and lives in an apartment with her parents, Rainer and Claudia Koepplinger, who both work outside the home.

At her local high school — the Goethe Gymnasium — classes are harder than classes at Pine-Richland High School, Nina said.

“We have geography every year. We have biology every year. We have physics every year,” said Nina. “I think it's really cool that you can choose your classes here.”

Nina also enjoys the variety of stores available at places such as the Ross Park Mall.

“There are so many names we don't have in Austria,” she said.

Nina also reported a new fondness for pizza, lasagna and other Italian foods, plus a new appreciation for American kitchen habits.

“Here, you don't cook so much,” she said.

After visiting Mt. Washington and other local sites, Nicole reported another striking aspect of Pittsburgh: “You have so many bridges.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.