Discovering Something New: What Exchange is All About

Oregon Star Party campground

I’ve been hosting exchange students for over 20 years, and I’ve shared with many of them my passion for astronomy. My wife and I even tried to find the perfect student with whom to share the 2017 eclipse by choosing a student who specifically said she was interested in astronomy, though we were defeated in that plan by an inconvenient school boundary change.

This year, we didn’t focus on specific interest areas and instead picked a student based on other criteria. Even so, we offered her the opportunity to come with us to the Oregon Star Party (OSP) which was taking place shortly after her planned arrival in August. The OSP is one of the premier dark-sky observing events in North America. It takes place in central Oregon, far from any city’s bright lights, and attracts some 500-700 people each year. Our new student agreed, and we brought Malina to the U.S. a couple of weeks early to enable her to attend.

She arrived a week prior to the Star Party. We took her out for a quick observing party with friends, where she got her first look through a telescope — her first look ever.

She loved it.

At OSP, conditions were tough, as we experienced our hottest daytime temperatures in the history of the event, as well as smoke which marred the clarity of the night skies. Malina persevered, and familiarized herself with the night sky, the operation of the scope, and the use of charts with impressive speed.

The OSP offers awards for observers who record at least 20 of 25 suggested objects on a list. Malina took a look at the 2017 list and knocked out the first 10 objects the first night. Before the end of the Star Party, she’d earned her pins for the 2017 and 2018 lists.

I am convinced that she’s found a lifelong pursuit and that this exchange year has already changed her life. I am yet again reminded that this is what exchange is all about. By sharing our lives and our families and our interests with these kids, we alter the course of their lives for the better . . . what an honor and a privilege it is!

Lars D. H. Hedbor is an amateur historian, home brewer, astronomer, fiddler, linguist, and baker. His fascination with the central question of how the populace of the American Colonies made the transition from being subjects of the Crown to citizens of the Republic drives him to tell the stories of those people, in the pages of his Tales From a Revolution novels. Hedbor lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife, Jennifer Mendenhall, and four of their six daughters. Lars and Jenn are exchange student coordinators for EF High School Exchange Year. Lars’ previous post for The Exchange Mom was An Exchange Student Wedding in 2016.

Photo credit: Lars D.H. Hedbor

 

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