DeLayni, a 16-year-old Rio Mesa High School student, will attend school for a year in Belgium while her mom looks after a French exchange student who will attend Adolfo Camarillo High School.
It’s an exciting time for the pair, neither of whom has traveled outside the U.S.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and realized it’s better to start earlier,” DeLayni said. “You get to learn how to live on your own for a little bit, like a test run for college.”
The teen was chosen by Rotary International to travel as an American foreign exchange student to Namur, a French-speaking region of Belgium—site of the World War II Battle of the Bulge.
“I’m mostly excited but obviously a little bit nervous because of the language barrier,” she said.
The Camarillo resident has worked with a French tutor all summer but says it’s hard to learn the language
DeLayni will get plenty of practice with the three different host families she’ll live with while she attends school.
She said she’s excited for the opportunity to travel to places such as Prague, Paris and Amsterdam.
“I hope I come back more independent and mature . . . able to handle new situations, like being okay while being on my own,” she said.
DeLayni was inspired to travel after her 27-year-old sister, Carissa, backpacked through Italy for three weeks last year.
“(Carissa) said you need to go and see the world and experience a different way of life than what we have here,” Lynda Millar said.
Millar thought traveling would be an uplifting experience for DeLayni following the death of her father from cancer four years ago.
“As a parent, you want the best for your kids,” she said. “Being that DeLayni doesn’t have her dad, who she was really close to, I think that just learning that the world is a good and beautiful place is what I would like for her to get out of it.”
Millar said she hopes to have a similar experience with Elisa, a foreign exchange student from France who will live in the family’s home for three months.
“I don’t know any other language than English, so (communicating with the exchange student) is going to be hard for me,” she said.
DeLayni will fly out of Los Angeles today and said she hopes to live simply and travel light, a task made more challenging by the heavy coats and boots needed for the cold Belguim falls and winter.
“The climate is a lot different than California, so that’s going to be interesting to get used to,” she said.
She and her mom won’t see each other for about six months; Millar will travel to Europe during DeLayni’s spring break.
“I’m excited for her, but I’m also really going to miss her,” Millar said. “I want (DeLayni) to know life is worth living and to embrace it.”