Louise and the kiwi ‘oddities’

Rotary exchange student Louise Zakrzewski with her first host ‘mum’ Carol Turner, left, and Te Awamutu Rotary Club president Gill Johnston.

French Rotary exchange student Louise Zakrzewski and her Kihikihi-based host parents Carol and Ross Turner planned a bit of competitive banter for the All Blacks v France Rugby World Cup opener.

They draped their respective national flags on opposing sides of the lounge and readied themselves for an early morning start in front of the telly.

But Louise’s ‘Allez Les Bleus’ moment fell flat… she slept in and missed the entire game.

The straight-talking 17-year-old hails from Arras in northern France, not far from Cambridge’s sister city, Le Quesnoy.  She arrived on the Rotary Youth Exchange programme in mid-July and has slotted easily into Year 12 at Te Awamutu College.

Seeking an exchange opportunity, Louise learned about the Rotary option through social media.

“New Zealand was my first choice, mostly because people speak English and I wanted to improve my English,” she said

Louise made the trip with a group of New Zealand inbound Rotary exchange students and her trusty camera.  She seldom goes anywhere without it, primarily as sport photography is something she is really into.  Her twin brother’s road cycling is a popular subject for her hobby and she’s sorry she missed snapping him when he took a third placing at a big race the weekend before last.

The daughter of a French mother and Polish father, Louise has travelled through Europe, Turkey and Egypt, but never been this far from home.

She has already compiled a list of ‘strange things’ she has noticed about the kiwi way of life.

“They wear no shoes … even for sport sometimes.  Shoes come off a lot here, people carry them around,” she said.

“Carpet in houses, that is strange to me too, and I am not used to wearing a school uniform.”

Also getting the ‘strange’ nod are the kiwi versions of baguettes and croissants, and she is horrified at the eye-watering price of vegetables here.

On the plus side, Louise is enjoying the easy-going and non-judgemental nature of those she meets.  “People here are so cool.”

School also gets a tick.  She is doing geography, photography, hospitality and three sports subjects – sport elite, PE and outdoor education.  The hours here are kinder than in France, where her school day is literally that, stretching from 8am to around 6pm with lessons going throughout to cover her 10 subjects.

Heading the line-up of host families for her year are Carol and Ross Turner, who had a young German student stay with them on an earlier exchange.

“We really enjoy having them around, although we are more like grandparents than parents,” Carol said.

Te Awamutu Rotary Club president Gill Johnston, who with her husband will take on the second round of host parenting duties, said Louise will benefit from the many local Rotarians’ trips away as they generously share their fellowship with her.

“We’ve put the word out to include Louise if possible should they be doing anything exciting,” she said.

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