School News

Meet Julia Gerbasi, PB’s exchange student from Brazil

By Jared Castañeda
Posted 6/21/24

Julia Gerbasi is a Brazilian student from São Paulo, Presidente Prudente who attended Anglo Prudentino for her first three years of high school. For her senior year, however, she broke out of …

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School News

Meet Julia Gerbasi, PB’s exchange student from Brazil


Julia Gerbasi is a Brazilian student from São Paulo, Presidente Prudente who attended Anglo Prudentino for her first three years of high school. For her senior year, however, she broke out of her bubble and pursued her biggest challenge yet: attending Pine Bush High School and experiencing the wonders of Crawford and New York State, an opportunity she received through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.

​​The Rotary Club, an international service organization, has sponsored students through its YEX Program since the early 1940s, connecting them to schools and host families in over 100 countries. Gerbasi applied for the program through her city’s Rotary and became Wallkill East Rotary’s first exchange student in over 25 years. She sought to explore the world beyond her home and develop her English, a language she picked up through watching TV shows and movies.

“I was looking to expand my independence and view of the world. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and also improve my English,” Gerbasi said. “I had to do a test, and that gave me a grade. And as high as that grade goes, I could choose a country I’m going to, and the USA was an option. There were a lot of other countries I could’ve gone to and I chose the US.”

Gerbasi began the program in August 2023 and moved in with her first of three host families. As Pine Bush High School’s newest student, she felt anxious about adjusting to her classes and making new friends. Over the year, she not only adapted to these circumstances but thrived in them; she honed her English skills, garnered numerous friends, and participated in several extracurricular activities. She volunteered with the Interact Club, worked with the stage crew on the school’s productions, and served as a manager for the PB Girls Tennis team.

“It was really hard in the beginning because I didn’t know anyone, so until I ‘built my place’ here, it was a little hard,” Gerbasi said. “But once I got into the activities and extra things like the tennis team and plays, I felt like I was a part of the community. And now I’m sad that I have to leave soon.”

Outside of school, Gerbasi’s host families took her on several trips both within and out of the state. She went skiing during the winter, attended a Yankees baseball game last month, toured major cities like Boston and Philadelphia, and visited the roaring Niagara Falls.

Throughout all these adventures, Gerbasi has adored traveling and appreciates how much she has grown since starting the exchange program.

“My favorite part is seeing how well I did, even though in the beginning it was hard, and all the people I met,” Gerbasi said. “I learned a lot about how to trust myself and how to enjoy my own company. I think my main takeaway is realizing that I can do everything with time; if you put the time and effort into it, it will turn out good.”

So Gerbasi had a great time in Pine Bush, but how did her host families fair? Ellie Hoppe, a PBHS senior student and member of the Interact Club, became Gerbasi’s host sister sometime after the two met at a Rotary party in late 2023. Both girls spent a lot of time together during and outside of school, leading to Hoppe and her family hosting Gerbasi between February and April.

“My friend Jenna and I went to a party and we met Julia there, and then we just became friends with her. We ate lunch with her, we continued to be friends, we went to Interact Club together and all that stuff,” Hoppe said. “In November, we realized we could host Julia because one of her families had dropped out. We talked to Dr. Bassett (executive of the Rotary’s YEX) and he gave us the paperwork. I filled everything out and we were able to get Julia in February.”

Hoppe and her parents loved hosting Gerbasi earlier this year, and Hoppe especially enjoyed having a roommate closer to her age to hang out with. Hoppe brought Gerbasi to her volleyball tournaments, took her skiing in Killington, Vermont, and volunteered with her at the Interact Club. She felt that hosting Gerbasi was a seamless transition for her family and speculated that her parents may enjoy hosting another student if given the chance.

“It didn’t feel any different because we were already friends, so we were already hanging out before this. I also have an older sister so it wasn’t like I was an only child,” Hoppe said. “It’s nice to have that connection with someone in the house that’s the same exact age. We drove to school together, we did stuff after school, and we did Interact together. It was honestly a great experience.”

“I also have a younger niece named Harper, she’s turning five and she absolutely loves Julia,” she continued. “Every time I see her, she’s asking for Julia, and she was distraught when Julia moved out of the house.”

Gerbasi will graduate from Pine Bush High School on June 27 and return home on July 6. Overall, she had a terrific experience attending school in Pine Bush and would travel abroad again if the opportunity arose. She had one piece of advice for aspiring exchange students: just go for it, and it will all work out in the end.

“It is really scary and you have to have patience. But if you go for it, it’s gonna turn out great, it’s gonna be worth it,” Gerbasi said.

The Wallkill East Rotary is currently seeking families to host another exchange student for the 2024-2025 school year. The Rotary also hopes to provide Pine Bush students with opportunities to travel abroad to countries participating in the program. For more information, call Bill Bassett at (845) 800-3532.