Murrysville/Export Rotary Club seeks host families

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

While discussing the Murrysville-Export Youth Exchange program, Nick Dorsch recalls an it's-a-small-world-after-all moment he witnessed at a conference in Florida.

Impressed with her new friend's fluency with English, a Mexican student asked her Bolivian counterpart where she had learned to speak the language so well. “Mama Dorsch,” the girl replied.

The Mexican student was shocked. During her exchange-student stay in America, she, too, had learned English from “Mama Dorsch” — Dorsch's mother.

This upcoming school year will be the fifth that Nick and his wife, Tracy, will host a foreign student, and the program is looking for other families to welcome exchange students into their homes.

Tracey Dorsch said the program benefits the hosts, as well as the students.

“ (It) broadens your horizons,” she said. “You learn from them. You learn it's not about right or wrong.”

The program broadened her husband's perspective.

Nick Dorsch credits the program with shaping his life. As a child, his family hosted 17 different students, and he traveled to Germany as part of the program. After his return, he majored in international business in college and still stays in touch with his host families. He has returned to Germany for baptisms, weddings and other life events.

He said the program is a fabulous way to share new experiences, everything from different foods and holidays to the joy of seeing someone from Brazil in the snow for the first time. Those moments, he said, “are always neat.”

Bonnie Gerken, the inbound youth-exchange coordinator for the Rotary's southwest Pennsylvania district, said this year the club will host five students from Taiwan, Bolivia, Japan, Brazil and Germany. Each student will stay with two host families during the school year and then will have the opportunity to tour the America, with sights including Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and other notable destinations.

Gerken said participation in the program is an opportunity for understanding and peace and a way to accept different cultures.

“It's a simple philosophy,” she said, but it “takes a lot of hard work.”

Dave Rullo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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