American exchange student Alexis Greeff will spend almost a year living in Collie with four local families as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program, which provides an opportunity for students to live and study abroad.
The 16 year-old said she watched Crocodile Dundee, Outback Jack and Australia before embarking on her long haul flight, but said she had “no preconceptions.”
Through Rotary, Alexis has travelled to other states in America as well as Sweden and Canada, but said moving to Collie, Western Australia was her first big move.
“This is the first move where it has really impacted me. It’s a country move. A culture move. A family move. An everything move,” she said.
“As an exchange student the biggest culture shock being here would be leaving my family and the experience of not knowing the people around you and being comfortable around them, but that really just takes time to get to a level of comfort.
“The thing I’ve had to realise is that it’s going to take some time to assimilate and be accepted both ways. Like you accept that you’re part of the family and the family accepts that you’re part of their family, so it’s kind of like adoption in a way.”
Alexis said she comes from a family of five siblings, with her two younger sisters being adopted.
“We’ve adopted two little girls into our family and I was thinking that’s kind of cool I get to experience a very minor chunk of what that might feel like,” she said.
“Britain we adopted from foster care and she’s 4 now and we also adopted Jenna from China when she was two but she’s 11 now. I also have two older brothers Christian and Nathan and an older sister Lindsay, who recently just got engaged.”
She said so far her thoughts of locals were “very friendly and willing to help.”
“Collie is very friendly actually from who I’ve been introduced to and have met. It’s very close and all the people know each other which can be a good thing and a bad thing,” she said.
Alexis said her purpose was to build a strong bonds with her host families and fellow students at Collie Senior High School.
“My purpose here isn’t just to see all the amazing things, but that is going to be a great fun part of it, but my purpose as a Rotary exchange student is to build lasting relationships and create understanding within other people,” she said.
“I am excited to experience a different culture within each family, within Australia.”
Rotary Club of Collie president and host John Bylund said Alexis was the third exchange student his family have welcomed into their family.
“Each one has been very different and we just learn so much from each one and sometimes there’s challenges along the way but at the end of the exchange you just feel so close to them and they’re just like part of your family,” he said.
Alexis said already in the time she has been here she has learnt so much about herself.
“Going on exchange you’re going to experience the way high things and the way low things, really hard trials and you can’t have without the other. It’s really worth it,” she said.