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A year in America cures boredom

At about this time last year, Gregoria Mandias was bored with her life. Without telling her parents, she applied for Rotary International's Youth Exchange program and a short time later she was accepted.

The 17-year-old is a resident of Jakarta, Indonesia. She said she was beyond excited to be placed in New Richmond.

"I've never lived in a small town," she said. "I was really excited about that."

Mandias said she was able to pick the United States as her country of choice; however, she had no say in which state or city she was placed.

"I picked America because I wanted to know about America and the culture," she said. "America is really popular in my country."

She speaks Indonesian at home, but students are taught English as early as elementary school, she said.

"It was hard at first," she said of the language difference. "People here talk really fast."

She said the opportunities to be involved in school activities and the ability to select her own classes have been some of the most exciting things she's done.

"I played tennis and I'm now in ski club," she said. "It was my first time skiing."

Mandias said there are obvious differences between the two countries, like how people dress and greet each other.

For example, in Indonesia, students are required to wear uniforms to school and don't wear makeup to class.

Greetings in Indonesia can vary depending on the different ethnicities, she said. Here, students often give each other hugs.

She said she's also really enjoyed shopping and has already made one trip to the Mall of America.

"We have a lot of American products in Indonesia, but it's much cheaper here," she said.

Mandias said she's looking forward to celebrating Christmas in New Richmond.

"We have Christmas, but it's different," she said. "Here everyone gives presents to almost everyone they know. We don't do that."

In fact, Mandias said if she were home, she wouldn't be giving any Christmas presents this year.

Mandais said her time away from home hasn't been difficult because she's having so much fun.

"I'm really liking the experience," she said.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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