Participation in youth exchange programs have long been a way for young people across the globe to experience the cultures of other countries.

Participation in youth exchange programs have long been a way for young people across the globe to  experience the cultures of other countries. This summer, Tim and Merrie Bertrand of Montevideo are hosting two young men for one month as part of the Lions International Youth Exchange Program.

“The Lions is an international organization,” said Merrie Bertrand, “and one of  their programs is providing youth ages 17-20 the opportunity to participate in an international exchange program.”

Maksymilian Laskowski (Max) of Poland and Alejandro Sanchez Ortegon (Alex) of Mexico are spending the month of July with the Bertrands, learning about American culture and life in west-central Minnesota.

According to Bertrand, the foreign participants in the program mainly come from China and countries in Europe, while American participants go to countries all over the world.

Bertrand explained how the program works: “Each one of the districts, like our Lions Districts 4 and 5, have around 30 exchange youth coming in. They come for one month and spend the first three weeks with their host families. The last week they all go to a camp, which is in St. Cloud this year, where they meet up with the others. Most of them will return home at the end of July, but Max and Alex will come back to Montevideo and spend a few more days with us.”

The participants have the opportunity to be immersed in all aspects of American culture, from how we work, how we have fun, and what we eat; it is a chance for them to learn first-hand about America.

Max and Alex arrived in Minnesota on July 1, and were greeted at the airport by the Bertrands. Alex has been to America before, but this is Max’s first visit.

Although he hasn’t been here long, Max is enjoying his stay. “Everything is cleaner, bigger, and everyone is so nice,” he said.

Alex is impressed by American culture. “The houses are so small in Mexico; here they are so much bigger! The food is really good here, and it is also interesting to see the small towns.” (It should be mentioned that Alex comes from a city with 215,000 people, so for him, small town life is fascinating.)

Max comes from what he calls a “village” in Poland. “When you look at the difference between towns in Europe, it is a small city, but it is not really huge. It is middle-sized for a town in Poland, but it is bigger than Monte­video,” he said

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