What would you pack if you could only take one suitcase to last you a whole year? A whole year without seeing your mom or dad. A whole year without sleeping in your own bed or petting your family dog. A whole year of new sights and sounds and sensations. A whole year in an unknown country. For Jeff High’s five foreign exchange students, this is their reality.
Their names are Marlene, Louis, and Peter (who are all from Germany), as well as Giovanni (who is from Italy) and Kamilla (who is from Russia). Amongst themselves there are many differences, from the way they were raised to the traditions of their families, but one thing they all have in common is the foreign exchange program.
The foreign exchange program allows students from all over the world to experience global interaction and travel, as well as the host of said exchange students to learn from their non-native guest.
“America is the dream country,” said Kamilla on why she wanted to come to America. She wanted to learn English and thought coming to a new place would be interesting. Marlene also agreed with her on this statement saying everyone wants to speak English and she wishes to become fluent.
Giovanni said there’s even an English speaking club at his school back in Italy. The club’s goal is to help students get their PET, which is a certificate of English fluency. He also said America has lived up to his expectations.
“Everything here is bigger. There are roads for no reason, and fast food everywhere.” said Giovanni. Louis stated Jeff High is a much bigger building then his school building back in Germany.
“Our number of students is the same – give or take, around 2,000 – but our school is probably 10 times smaller than Jeff High,” said Giovanni on his school size. He said his school has no cafeteria, pools, sports fields or even lockers. “I love my locker, even if it is annoying that we have to carry around our stuff,” said Marlene, whose school is also without lockers. Marlene also said school in the United States is much easier than school overseas. Every other exchange student agreed.
For Peter, Jeff High’s daily seven periods are practically effortless to him, considering he takes 16 classes a week back home. In Germany, his homework is never assigned nor taken for a grade, rather it is simply just provided as a reference. In order for him to succeed on his exams, he has to study from wanting to rather that having to.
All the exchange students agree that homework from their home countries is harder than the homework here. Kamilla said some of her classes in Russia only meet once a week, so when they do have class most of the time is spent taking a test. All the learning is left for her to on her own.
Some of them said students in their home country stay together the entire day and go from class to class together. For Kamilla, she will to stay with the same classmates from her kindergarten class until she graduates. In Russia, high school students only study 11 years rather than 12.
All of their schools have no school sports teams either. Louis, who plays tennis, is part of a club sport rather than a school team in Germany. Club sports only practice about twice a week rather than usual 5 for school teams here in America.
Many of the exchange students commented that sports are a much bigger deal to Americans. “One of the stereotypes about America is the sports,” said Marlene.
One of the things she has enjoyed most about her time here in the United States was going to all of the football games in the fall, even if she had no idea how the game worked. She is planning on going to all of basketball games this winter. Marlene also hopes to keep in contact with the friends she’s made here at Jeff.
Kamilla, who will be leaving at the end of this semester, is sad she has to go. “I don’t know if I will ever see them again, and although it has been a short time, I am sad to go,” she said about leaving friends in the United States.
Written by Sophie Rousseau