Making Friends, Fresh Air Part Of Exchange


Every day in Munich, Germany, 17-year-old foreign exchange student Tori Belohlawek got up and walked through three feet of snow, got into her parents' car and drove nearly an hour to the school she attended.

Her school was one large building with many classrooms where students attended all of their classes, said Belohlawek.

"It's better here because you get to walk around a lot more," she said. "At the high school here I have to go from class to class and it's nice because it gives you a chance to get some fresh air and talk to your friends between classes," classes," she said.

She also said she likes living and going to school here in Payson because she has gotten a chance to meet new people and learn a little about them and their culture.

It's pretty common these days to hear of the United States and other parts of the world, referred to as melting pots of society and culture.

Belohlawek is a true melting pot unto herself, she knows five languages, has lived in Spain, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines and travels all over the globe.

Her parents, Adelaida, a head nurse, and Heinz, a dental technician, are from Germany and the Philippines, she has an aunt in Illinois, an uncle in San Francisco, more aunts and uncles in Hungary and Spain and is now living in Payson with the Curtis family in Payson Ranches while attending Payson High School.

Juline Curtis works in the front office at Payson Elementary School and said Belohlawek is the first foreign exchange student they have hosted.

"My husband Don and I have five kids of our own, so adding one more to the pot was good all around," said Juline.

The Curtises and Belohlawek were brought together with the help of Edie Miller, the Payson representative for the EF Foundation, a nonprofit organization that specializes in bringing foreign exchange students to the United States.

She said it is refreshing living with the Curtises because in Germany, her 30-year-old only sister didn't live with her and her parents, but the Curtises 18-year-old daughter Shauna, a senior at the high school, is Belohlawek's own age.

"It's kind of weird, 'cause she's my same age and here I have someone I can talk to, but it's nice, too, because here I'm not really, but kind of the baby of the family.

The Curtises' other daughter, Katelyn, is 14.

Oh, by the way, Belohlawek is technically already done with high school, since she graduated from the one-building school she attended in the suburbs of Munich, Germany before she got to Payson.

So immediately after she leaves here, she'll go on to college in Germany.

Belohlawek said she wants to go into a field where she can use her knowledge of world languages, maybe as an international interpreter, or a european secretary.

She speaks French, German, Pilipino, English, and is learning Spanish at Payson High School, but said French is her favorite and English is the easiest for her.

Her favorite subjects at the school are history and English.

Before coming to Payson, Belohlawek attended a two-week English school in Boston to learn the language better.

She said a career related to world languages wasn't always her aspiration.

"I thought of maybe being a stewardess when I was younger, but I got over that pretty quick," said Belohlawek.

She said Payson is like the Munich suburb she comes from in some ways, and unlike it in others.

For example, her home in Germany is pretty close to the Alps, she said, so it gets a lot colder and they get a lot more snow.

"There, we get snow up to the top of my legs (about three feet) and it is a lot colder sometimes because we are so close to the Alps," said Belohlawek.

"But here you can see the mountains every day, it is such a beautiful thing to be able to see that every day when I'm going to school."

Belohlawek keeps busy while she's in Payson; right now she is in modern choir at the high school and plans to join the town's girl's soccer team.

She also attends Katelyn's softball games as often as time permits.

"I try to get to as many of them as I can, but sometimes I am really busy," said Belohlawek.

She said she's been enthralled by virtually every one of the scenic places she's visited in Arizona.

"We went to the Grand Canyon, and it was awesome," she said. "I was a little concerned about the rails, there weren't enough of them, it looked like a person could fall off the edge so easily."

Belohlawek said she wants to see more of Arizona and the United States before she has to return to Germany.

"I think I will go to California to visit my uncle before I go, it would be really nice to see the ocean there," she said

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