Feature Photos

A year in America has changed Júlia’s life

By From page B1 | August 13, 2014

Brazilian exchange student Júlia Garcia, kneeling, found her passion at Oak Ridge — theater. Here she's acting in "The King's New Threads." Village Life photo by Noel Stack

Rotary Youth Exchange student Júlia Garcia flew home late last month with a new goal — work in theater/films as an actress or behind the scenes.

The 17-year-old didn’t have those opportunities in Brazil (acting lessons are very expensive, she said) and jumped at the chance to be on stage at Oak Ridge High School, where she spent her senior year.

“The theater program … that was my passion this whole year,” Júlia said in an interview before she left. “I found my friends there; I found my passion there.  I really love acting and directing.”

Júlia starred as Weave Alex in the ORHS original production “The King’s New Threads” in January of this year and followed in March as an assistant to the assistant director for “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which recently earned four Elly nominations. Both experiences left Júlia with little doubt about what she wanted to do in the future and she said  she’s really grateful for drama teacher/director Janet Henke’s support and guidance.

“She made my year,” Julia said. “Half of my year was spent in that theater. She was my (fourth) host family.”

“She was a natural,” Henke said of Júlia.

Determined to take the next step, Júlia has already researched film schools — NYU and USC are her top picks.

Júlia also visited Los Angeles, seeing for the first time “the city I’ve always dreamed about.” She met a few notable celebrities — Mickey and Minnie Mouse — at Disneyland. And while that trip was memorable, her entire year in the United States is what really left her feeling starstruck.

“It’s a different life, a different you,” she said of the exchange student experience. “It teaches you about life … what’s out there. It teaches you how to think for yourself and make hard choices.”

Júlia came to the United States through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. The El Dorado Hills club sponsored her as well as outbound student Brock Bastian, who spent nearly a year in Bolivia. Brock returned home earlier this spring.

She arrived in California in July 2013 and spent her year with three host families — the Bastians, the Andrews and the Hendersons. Adventures included a visit to Utah where Júlia saw her first-ever snow, hiking in Yosemite and a trip to San Francisco that took her breath away. “I loved biking in San Francisco,” she said. “The views never stop impressing you.”

Júlia also met her host grandparents in Boise, Idaho, where she and grandmother Sandra grew really close. “They supported me more than you ever expect a stranger to support you,” Júlia said.

Grateful for everyone she met in El Dorado Hills and during trips, Júlia said she will definitely miss the people the most. Well, that and Ruffhaus hotdogs — “the weirdest, coolest hot dogs.” The self-decribed relish addict will undoubtedly introduce her Brazilian family to the all-American treats.

Júlia graduated from Oak Ridge in June and received the Brazilian Consulate’s stamp of approval on her coursework, meaning she most likely won’t have return to high school in Brazil. That might be a good thing since she confessed that her Portuguese has suffered thanks to a year of only speaking English. Though her family and friends might raise an eyebrow toward her new American accent, Júlia said she’s excited to head home and “hug everyone.” She left the United States in late July.

The Rotary Club of El Dorado Hills welcomed new exchange student Valentine Daendliker from Switzerland on Aug. 2. Outbound student Kendall Hoy will soon leave for Spain.

Noel Stack


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