Congratulations to Elvira from Sweden for being selected as the ICES Student of the Month for December! Elvira lives with the Lubrano family in Winter Springs, Florida, and was nominated by her host mom, Kristen.
Host mom, Kristen, says, "She has done an amazing job of integrating into our crazy family. Swedes are known to be very quiet and passive within their culture and she has become a huge part of our very loud and outgoing New Jersey, Italian family. Elvira is always the first to ask what she can do to be helpful… whether it is to assist with dinner, wash dishes or help another family member with homework. She has learned to hold her own at the dinner table, engaging in conversation with her siblings, grandfather and family friends. Everyone that interacts with her always shares that they have really enjoyed speaking with her and how she fits in so wonderfully."
Elvira has found many ways to share her Swedish culture with her host family. She has baked Swedish desserts on many occasions and has shared her Swedish birthday traditions by bringing family members breakfast in bed and singing the Swedish birthday song. This is something very special to her, a tradition that is shared within her family at home.
Elvira volunteered with the local Rotary club at an event called Champions Ride for Charities, which is sponsored by Orlando Health to raise money for local charities. She, along with her host sisters, volunteered for “clean-up duty” at the event. This consisted of a lot of physical work, including taking down and packing up event tents, tables, chairs, etc. She spoke with many other volunteers, including Rotarians, who were all very pleased to have her participate by sharing her time and her smile.
She is very open-minded and has taken an interest in experiencing the cultures of her friends and family. She joined her host family for a festival at a Serbian Orthodox Church, where she sampled foods and got to watch some traditional Serbian dancing. She also joined a trip to a Thai Temple, where she walked the beautiful grounds, viewed the inside of the temple and spoke with a Monk who explained of some of the traditional Thai teachings.
One of Elvira’s greatest fears is alligators, which is almost an inevitable sight in Florida. Much to the surprise of her host family, she opted to join them for a family day at Gatorland. When given the chance to stay home she replied, “Say yes to everything,” with a big, scared smile on her face. She expressed that she wanted to face her fears and spend the day with family.
Kristen says, "We are so proud of Elvira. In this short time, we have watched her grow as a person and witnessed her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone. She is discovering that there is always something new to experience and all these new experiences do not change who she is but add to the amazing young woman that she already is."
Elvira has shared with her host family a cultural difference in how people relate to situations around them. They've had many conversations about the Swedish tendency to accept things that happen around them and to not speak up for themselves or others. “It’s just not something that we do,” she would reply. Her host family has shared the Amerian perspective of speaking up in a positive way and “finding your voice”.
Recently, Elvira called her host mother during her school day to share something that happened in her P.E. class. Elvira saw a young man sitting by himself on the gymnasium floor, when another student walked up to him and dumped a bottle of water on his head. Everyone around began to laugh. The young man on the floor was visibly upset by this. Elvira chose this time to use her voice. She spoke to the student offender and said that it was not funny and that he owed the other young man an apology. After things cleared, she spoke to the young man on the floor, asking if he was ok and expressing that she was sorry for what had happened. This was a great moment for Elvira--one of growth that put her out of her comfort zone. Her host mom is very proud of her and so pleased that she chose to share this event.
We at ICES are proud of Elvira for her courage in embracing a new culture and her determination to step out of her comfort zone and have new experiences. This kind of ambition is what brings people and cultures together, which is what ICES is all about!
As Student of the Month, Elvira will receive a $100 gift card, an ICES t-shirt, and a letter of recognition from ICES President, John Crist.
Do you know an ICES student who embodies the spirit of ICES by being an awesome exchange student?
Perhaps they have done a beautiful job of integrating into their host family and culture, found creative ways to share their culture, or given back to the host community by volunteering. There are many ways ICES students excel, and this program is not limited to specific criteria. If you feel your student is awesome, nominate them!
Guidelines for Nominating a Student