Meet Mo, our 2009 - 2010
Rotary Exchange Student!
To write Mo, contact Jim Edwards.
 He has 2 emails for her.

by Allen Gress

Early after she enrolled in Louisville High School late last August as a Rotary-sponsored foreign exchange student from India, Manmohi Dake was given the nickname Mo.   And it stuck.

Now with graduation at hand, Mo will be returning five weeks from now to her home in Pune, a city of 3.3 million people that dates from 937 A.D.   The city hosts nine universities and is India's eight largest city located about a two-hour drive from Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay.

When she packs, Mo's LHS yearbook, The Mirror, will be one of her prized possessions.   What is so special isn't just her senior picture placed among those of the 291 classmates, or the candid shots of her having fun -- it's the signature pages -- the pages where American tradition has classmates writing about each other.   And Mo's pages are filled edge to edge. 

A sampling:
"You have no idea how much I'm going to miss you."   Christie McLinden.
"We're like three legs of a tripod!"   Cody Stocker wrote of special times with her and Nick Fresenko in Chemistry Class

"Mo - you are a living legend."   Joe Neff.
"Good Luck in every thing you do.   Stay classy."   Bobby Swigert.
Perhaps the most touching message was written by Sarah Roshong - " You are the best thing that ever happened to me."   Sarah, 16, is one of her host family sisters.

Above all else, the yearbook messages are about acceptance. . . acceptance for this young woman who came from a different culture and a different religion from half way across the world to a little town where she barely knew anyone when school began that August day.   Mo's dark eyes flash, perhaps a bit misty, when she shares the memories of her past year.

Mo has been staying in the home of her host parents Brad and Eva Roshong, Besides Sarah, the family includes Rebekah, 10, Hannah, 12, and Leah, 17. There are also three dogs, several cats, and assorted rabbits, goats and chickens that live in harmony on the Roshong’s Broadway Road farm.   Everyone has their turn at different chores and Mo is in charge of feeding the chickens, rabbits and goats.   "They all help with the inside chores, too," said Eva.   "Mo and Hanna share a bedroom."   Eva is a member of the Louisville Rotary Club who sponsored Manmohi.   "As a family, we discussed the idea and decided it would give her an education about America and us an education about India," Eva explained.   "What a great decision this has been! I believe God had his hand in placing Mo with us this year.   She has blessed us more than words can say."

Rotary is an international association and Mo's mother, Anita, is also a Rotarian.   She is an architect and Mo's father is an engineer.   "He Builds bridges and office buildings," explained Mo.   "My mother and father frequently work together on projects."   It was Anita that first gave Mo the information about the Rotary Exchange Program.   "She encouraged me to apply," said Mo, who stays in touch with her parents with Skype over the Internet.   Mo has a younger brother, 15, who Mo says is a geek. "He is exactly like Jughead in the comics," said Mo, "but we are very close."

In India, schooling is also 12 years, but the first 3 years are considered what Americans call kindergarten.   Their schooling ends at grade 10.   When Mo returns, she has to retake her last year.   The length of their school day is about the same as here.   Mo's courses this year included: AP Chemistry, AP Calculus, English IV, Spanish 1, Theatre, American Studies and gym.   She had only one study hall all year and still found time to work in the Guidance Office.   She participated in indoor soccer, and the mock United Nations event sponsored by the school's History Club and Academic Challenge.

Mo is proud that she received the highest grade in the class on the very first American Studies quiz.   Modestly, she admitted to suffering from senioritis that gave her two B's for the third quarter.   "The American way is growing on me," she said with a quick smile.   All her other grades were A's.

Mo speaks 5 languages including, Hindi, which is the national language of India.   She also speaks Sanskrit, Marathi, and Spanish.   She has studied English for 13 years and speaks it with perfect grammar and without an accent.   "There are over 300 languages spoken in India," she explained.   "But most Indian languages derive from Sanskrit, so if you can speak it, you can learn any of the other Indian languages."

Mo is planning to attend college, possibly in America, and wants to study biochemistry.   "I'd like to someday make better medicines," she said.   "But, I'm not really sure where I going with my career."  

Mo admits there have been some adjustments here. "We don't have dances in India," she explained.   "And no football."   Mo's first formal was the Heart's Dance and she enjoyed herself with her date Logan Hathaway doubling with her sister Leah and Nick Fresenko. "We had a blast," she exclaimed.

In India we play soccer and handball," she said. "And I like to go wind surfing, which I do at summer camp."

The students do not change their classes during the school day in India, rather the teachers move from room to room.   "We don't have choices in course selection," Mo explained.   "We are placed into curriculum streams such as Arts, Science or Commerce."   Other adjustments included not having public or private transportation or being able to use her moped to get around.  

Mo likes to go to the YMCA to work out after school. "Here I have to find a ride to and from all my activities."

And food. "I've learned to love American food, even beef," she admitted. "But, I've gained 10 pounds."   Indian food is more vegetable-based, according to Mo, who said she has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies, pop tarts and pepperoni pizza.

There have been some rough spots during the year.   "Well, there's the time I accidentally set off the fire alarm at school and all the kids went outside," she admitted. "I just touched it and it went off."   She explained what happened to the office staff, but her classmates still like to razz her about it.   One day she answered correctly a Chemistry question, a question other students apparently did not understand.   One of the students exclaims, "Oh, I hate you" as an expression of frustration, but Mo took the word hate literally and was crushed.   "In India, we don't have much sarcasm.     But I learned.   Mo said at first she didn't understand that one day a student would talk to her, the next day the same student would avoid her. "That would be considered rude in India, but is acceptable here," she said.

A Halloween trip to the Factory of Terror was just that for Mo. "The guy came up behind me with a chain saw . . . and I was terrified," she admitted. "And in the Hall of Mirrors, I tried to run away, ran into a mirror and fell down."   Halloween is not celebrated in India.  

One of her favorite activities is Rotary sleepover weekends with other foreign exchange students in the northeast Ohio Rotary District.   She has made friends with students from Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany and Bolivia.   The group has taken trips to New York City and Washington, D.C.

Everyone has been so nice to me, and no one was ever mean," she said.   "This exchange year has been more than 'just an experience' for it has changed my life in ways I couldn't think possible.   I can't even start to tell how much I'll miss everyone, especially my host mother and father who seem like my very own parents."   Mo wanted the story to end with a quote "Can miles truly separate us if we are already with our loved ones?"   I will cry my eyes out when I leave."   Mo said she definitely will return to America for a visit.

 

GSE team - Phillipines 2011