Exchange Student from Estonia Gives Back to her Host Community

January 31, 2023 2:30 am Published by 1 Comment

For the past five months, Vlada has been a remarkable member of the Troutdale community in Oregon where she is spending her high school exchange year. Vlada is an exchange student from Estonia who discovered the spirit of volunteerism and gave back to the community that welcomes her by participating in the Helping Hands Community Service Project with STS Foundation.

Over the holiday season, Vlada spent most of her weekends volunteering at the Grotto’s Festival of Lights in Portland, Oregon. She helped greet visitors, answer questions, give directions, and serve hot cocoa. Here is what Vlada shares about her volunteering experience:

“I decided to join because it was such a unique opportunity to get to know more people and bring fun and joy to everyone. I learned to be more sociable and involved in the activity, I feel like I acquired confidence when it comes to speaking to strangers!”

Vlada also discovered a new way of giving back through an online platform called With the help of her friends, host family, and others in the community, Vlada collected books and clothes for donation. She collected and donated 45 books and 53 pieces of clothing. Vlada enjoyed the time she spent asking the people around her about the books they had read and learning about recycling clothes.

“It was really interesting as we don’t have a system like this in Estonia! That helped me to realize that recycling clothes is actually a cool process that benefits not only the climate but also people, who need the clothes!”

Vlada is a recipient of the prestigious Future Leaders Exchange Program scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State which provides for students from former Soviet Union states to spend an academic year in the United States living with a volunteer host family and attending a U.S. high school.

Vlada is the winner of a $100 Amazon gift card for having collected the most points for her volunteer hours submitted through the Helping Hands Community Service Project. STS Foundation students currently on exchange in the USA are invited to participate in the Helping Hands Community Service Project. Host Families and Local Coordinators are encouraged to be involved and participate with their exchange student(s). Volunteer and community hours completed in the Spring semester must be submitted by May 15, 2023.

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This post was written by Sandrine Clement

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