The Rotary Club of Tahoe-Incline welcomed foreign exchange student, Julie (pronounced “Zhoo-LEE”) Castelain, to Incline Village for the 2013-2014 school year.  Castelain is from Saint-Nazaire, France.
Castelain is 17 years old, and is a junior at Incline High School.  She is studying U.S. History, English, Algebra, Foods, Spanish and Earth Science.  Castelain learned English at school in France.
She also previously studied as an exchange student in New Zealand for 3 months last year.  Castelain said that school here is very different and challenging.  “But everybody is very nice.  I really enjoy school here.”  Castelain’s school in France lasts from 8 or 9 a.m. until 5:30 or 6 p.m., with an hour-and-a-half break for lunch.  Students in France stay in the same classroom, while teachers rotate among classrooms.  Students in France may choose a field of study in high school, but cannot choose individual classes.
Castelain’s hometown is located in Brittany on the western coast of France.  Saint-Nazaire has a population of more than 70,000, and is a tourist area in the summer due to a popular beach nearby.  Major industries in Saint-Nazaire include shipping, ship construction and aircraft construction.  Many of the ships from the shipyards on St. Nazaire have held world records: the RMS Queen Mary 2, launched in 2003, is the largest ocean liner ever; and, the SS France, launched in 1961, was the world's longest passenger ship from 1961 to 2004.  The city is also home to a strategically-important submarine base built by the Nazis after France fell to Germany in World War II.
According to Castelain: “When I learned that I would be living in Incline Village, I did research about the town, and I was really happy to see photos showing how beautiful it is, with the lake and all the trees.  I was also really excited to find out about how much snow there is during the winter.”
Castelain said that she misses her family and friends in France, but that she is looking forward to improving her English during this year, and to learning about another way of life.  She said that she has already enjoyed meeting new people here, and visiting new places.  She said she hopes that this year will provide “a great experience that I will never forget.”
During the fall semester, Castelain is living with host family Bruce and Suzanne Simonian.  Bruce Simonian is a member of the Rotary Club of Tahoe-Incline.  Castelain said that she has “enjoyed sharing her host family’s daily life, meeting their family, and having fun with them.”
Castelain said she chose the Rotary Youth Exchange program because “it's a very good program; the student is well supported and always has someone to speak with if there are any problems.”  She also said that the program includes “trips and weekends with other Rotary exchange students where we can meet new people and share our experiences.”
Each year, the Rotary Club of Tahoe-Incline hosts a foreign exchange student through the Rotary Youth Exchange program.  The club provides the exchange student with room and board through one or more host families, and a modest monthly stipend for incidental expenses.  Members of the club also invite the exchange student along on local and out-of-town activities.  The youth exchange program is part of Rotary International’s effort to promote global understanding and peace by exposing people to new cultures and customs.