Rotary Youth Exchange student Livia Kummer of Hettlingen, Switzerland speaks of her experience in Canada so far. Kummer arrived in August for her one-year stay in the area. – Lucie Roy Photo

by Lucie Roy

A Swiss exchange student is enjoying her time in the community. Rotary Youth Exchange Student Livia Kummer spoke to her host club – the Morinville Rotary Club – at their Oct. 14 meeting.

Kummer, who is attending Sturgeon Composite High School, said she expected Switzerland to be more like her home.

“I expected not that different; it is very different,” she told Rotarians. “School is different, people are different, and friendship is different. Your definition of friendship is different. But it is a good difference.”

Kummer said in Switzerland they take more time to know each other, and do not use the term friend until they know someone well. “You call them friends when you know them, when you talk to them a lot, when you know something about them,” Kummer said.

The high school exchange student has some familiarity with what it is like to be in another country as a student. In 2008, her family hosted an exchange student from Ecuador. It was a wonderful year for her, one where she learned a lot.

“At school a lot of kids use the chance to do the exchange year,” she said, adding five students from her class and 14 from the school chose to do the exchange program this year. “Also my parents thought it was a very good idea.”

It was her love of the north that prompted her to choose Canada as her destination. She said she likes the winter for snowboarding and is attracted to the beauty of nature.

“I know people are very nice here, and that is true,” she said. “At this time that I am in Canada, my family is hosting a girl from Brazil. Her name is Laura, and her parents are hosting a boy from Canada, so it is a triangle.”

She is hoping to see a lot of the country through Rotary trips and making lifelong friendships through the experience.

But the student was equally willing to share her country and culture with Rotarians. In her PowerPoint presentation, Kummer spoke of her hometown of Hettlingen (population of 3300), about Switzerland, the national anthem, politics, and the country’s four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Kummer said the German is referred to as Swiss German because it is different than High German. As such, some native speaking Germans do not understand the Swiss version. Kummer said the majority speak Swiss German and that there are many dialects spoken in the country’s 26 districts. Kummer said Romansh is the most similar to Latin.

The high school student said there were five different kinds of high school; each focused on different subjects. She attends a high school focussed on economics and law. Another type of high school is the old language where the students learn Latin, Greek or Arabic. Another is the new language school, and it is the most common. Students learn a third language, including Spanish, Italian or Russian. The fourth type is the scientific high school and the fifth is the artistic high school where they have more music and drawing.

Kummer said only about 13 per cent of students go to the [upper secondary school] high school, which requires a high level of academic merit and requires a national exam. Marks range from one to six, and four is the minimum accepted grade. A failure to meet grade levels can result in removal from the school. At the end of Grade 12, they have to do a final exam to get what is called the Matura, the diploma required to get into University.

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