By Jennifer Von Ohlen
COKATO, MN While foreign exchange student Sylvie Moeys is only be about halfway done with her year at Dassel-Cokato High School, she stated with confidence, “This year is already the best I’ve ever had.”
Leaving her home in Andenne, Belguim, Moeys arrived in the United States around mid-August to learn about American culture, improve her English skills, and play basketball which she has been doing back home for about 10 years.
Moeys currently plays varsity on the Chargers girls basketball team. She hopes to attend a National Basketball Association game before returning home.
Back in Belguim, Moeys would spend much of her time hanging out with family and friends, whom she expected to miss very much (and does). What she wasn’t prepared to miss, however, were her pets: two dogs (Lady and Zeus), four cats (Tigry, Crazy, Hercule, Rooster), a rabbit (Blacky), and some fish.
“[It’s] because I’ve always lived with them,” she explained.
Moeys was also a little apprehensive about American food, because the US has a reputation of dinning out often, and has an abundance of fast food restaurants. To her surprise, however, the food here is “not as bad” as she had been led to believe.
“The fact is, Americans go more often in restaurants and/or fast food [places], but what people don’t talk about is there is good food, too!” she said.
In addition to the food not being what she expected, Moeys has also discovered a number of differences between the American school system and what she’s used to at the Institut Saint-Begge d’Andenne.
There, the classes are separated by grade levels, and students stick with those classes for the whole year.
“Sometimes, it can change a bit, because we have to choose options like another language (English, Dutch, and later Spanish) or basics/advanced math or science, Latin, or economics,” explained Moeys. “After that, you just follow a program made by the Government of Education. So, you choose your options and after that, the school [designs] your schedule for the rest of the year.”
Every day of the week has a different class schedule (similar to how US colleges operate), and a minimum of 28 hours of classtime is required per week. The maximum is around 36 hours.
Moeys said DCHS has more “life” to it than her school back home.
“There are activities and sports after school [at DC], while in Belgium, you go to school and that’s it,” she explained.
Even with all the differences, Moeys said she has been adjusting pretty well to American culture.
“I’m also kind of lucky, because my host parents remind me of my parents,” which she said is likely a big reason the transition has been smooth.
Her hosts, Karl and Ruth Erickson (and family), agreed.
“[Moeys] has blended so well with our family,” the Ericksons stated. They shared that some of their biggest joys thus far have been sharing their home with Moeys and adding her to the family, celebrating Christmas with her and learning about her life and family in Belgium, and watching her play basketball.
“The girls love having another sister to hang out with,” they said.
For Moeys, it’s difficult to pin down what her favorite highlights have been.
“I don’t really know, because every day is a new part of this and almost every time I’m doing something new, I think it’s the best until I do something else, even if it seems an everyday thing.”
After thinking about it, however, Moeys did say she really enjoyed the foreign exchange students’ trip to Chicago, IL.
“I discovered a new city and a lot of other exchange students. It was good to know that I’m not alone in that situation,” she said.
The Ericksons hope to take Moeys to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan within the next few months, so she can experience the snow there. They also hope to make a trip out to Mount Rushmore, and Moeys would like to visit a few US colleges and continue learning about American culture.
“If someone has the opportunity to become an exchange student, just do it,” said Moeys. “You may have some down [moments], but most of the time it’s great and you’ll meet a ton of great people.”