Akos Hodossy and Pia Carmona are the latest students from Rotary's Youth Exchange Program to temporarily call Ithaca home.

Akos Hodossy


The first snow of winter can't come soon enough for Akos Hodossy, the Ithaca Rotary exchange student from Gyor, Hungary, who is already waxing up the snowboard he discovered in his host family's collection of sports gear.  Told that he would be spending the 2009-10 school year in New York, he had pictured something like New York City.   "I was expecting more cars, fewer trees, nothing but fast food, and not much chance to do sports," a happily surprised Akos says.


What he found was manageable traffic; an environment filled with deer, wild turkeys, squirrels and other wildlife; host families thriving on vegetables and organic foods; and an Ithaca High School (where he is a junior) filled with like-minded sports enthusiasts.  Although Akos (pronounced "eh-kosh") missed out on the cross country season this fall, he will be running track for I.H.S. in the spring.


Back in Gyor, where his father is a banker and his mom is a math and physics teacher, Akos thought his hometown was small. In fact, the city in northwest Hungary is that nation's sixth largest, and several times the size of Ithaca.  So the next surprise was how much little Ithaca has to offer - most notably top-notch college hockey, and he quickly became one of the Lynah Faithful. 


An outgoing and sociable fellow himself, Akos has made one observation about Americans, or at least the Ithaca kind he's met: "You are all so polite to strangers," he says.  "You really try hard to be nice."  And he has one little item on his must-see list before returning home: "The Grand Canyon!"


Pia Carmona


The daughter of an Argentine diplomat based in Buenos Aires, Ithaca Rotary exchange student Pia Carmona can't believe her good fortune - to land in a school (Ithaca High) and a community (Tompkins County) with so many international kids her age.  "We have so much to talk about," she says of the friends she's made among students from many nations. 


So it was natural that the first school group Pia joined was the International Club.  The second surprised even her: the Ithaca High Ski Club.  That might seem a risky choice for a South American who had been on skis only twice, briefly, in her life.  But that's another great thing, she says: "Here you don't have to be an expert to be involved and have fun."


Clearly not lacking self-confidence, Pia says she knows she can always fall back when necessary on a support network.  "People here take care of us, and we always feel the organization (Rotary) is taking care of us."   There was, for instance, the chaperoned trip to see the sights and highlights of New York City.  The visit was all too brief  - just enough to whet her appetite - and now Pia is ready to go back on her own.  Just to be sure, though she'll wear proof that she's with the right team - a ball cap of the New York Yankees.