Exchange student says goodbye to her second home

Published: Jun. 1, 2017 at 5:16 PM CDT
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Every year foreign exchange students from a variety of countries come to the United States to attend high school for the year. Now, ten months later, students visiting Central Louisiana are returning to their home countries.

Bianca Astete Dalence is one of those students, and she boarded her flight back to Bolivia on Thursday. Astete said being an exchange student has changed her in a number of ways.

"I didn't have a vision of the world as big as I think I have now,” said Astete. “You really see that you are alone, so you grow up a lot."

Traveling to America and speaking English meant stepping out of her comfort zone, but Astete said she has to thank her host family, the Calhouns, for a wonderful experience.

"The first time I got into their house, I just felt something, and it was just like, ‘This is going to be a good thing,’" said Astete. "I feel privileged that I had a really good host family. I mean they are amazing. I am so happy with them."

That is why saying goodbye on Thursday morning was difficult, both for Astete and the Calhouns.

"I'm literally going to cry,” said host sister Gabrielle Calhoun, the day before Astete left. “I don't think I’ve ever missed someone quite as much as I'm going to miss her."

Gabrielle and Astete became best friends over the past year. Astete left a big sister in Bolivia, and Gabrielle’s older sister recently left for college.

"When I knew that I was going to have a sister, one year older than me I was really excited,” said Astete. “I have Gabri to talk to all the time."

Astete said she has learned a lot from living in the United States, but the Calhouns learned a lot about Bolivia too.

"As much as she's learned from us, we've learned from her,” said Gabrielle. “It's been so interesting, and I honestly feel like I'm part of it. Like I'm a little Bolivian."

Astete and the Calhouns said they believe this goodbye is only for the time being. They hope to meet somewhere in the world and catch up.

"I was thinking of about coming back for college,” said Astete. “I don't know exactly what college yet, but it's in my plans to come back."