WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) – We’re celebrating International Education Week by highlighting the EF exchange program that matches high school students from other countries with American host families.
The students are from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. They flew across the world, leaving behind friends and family, which isn’t easy. But you’ll be happy to know they’re making the most of every minute.
They flew over 15,000 miles collectively for a chance to study in the United States, which is much different than their schools back home.
“One of the biggest things is the size of the school,” Esteve Guardia, an exchange student, said. “Here, you have to change from one class to another one and in Spain you stay in the same class the whole time. The first day I was kind of lost searching the rooms.”
“School is really so different because we have another year, we have 13 years while here they have 12,” Flavio Casale, an exchange student, said. “Another difference is that here they consider school as a place to get to know people basically, while we do it as just to learn.”
The way things are taught are also different.
“For the teachers in the Netherlands, it is really about independence,” Laure Clausing, an exchange student, said. “They are there to help but you have to go to them and here the teachers guide the students through it.”
Another plus is school sports and extracurricular activities, something the students don’t have in their schools back home.
“I am doing cheerleading at the high school, which is really fun because in the Netherlands we don’t have cheerleaders or football or something like that,” Clausing said. “Then different classes. I follow interior design, psychology. These kinds of classes we don’t have in the Netherlands. You can follow them at the college level but not in high school.”
While they enjoy trying new things, they also bring talents from back home with them.
One of the biggest worries for the students leaving home was actually food. They were not sure if it would compare to what they’re used to eating, but thankfully they have great host families to help.
“We have had to adjust to learning different cuisines, because we don’t want them to have home sickness,” Starkovich Forster, high school exchange coordinator and host parent, said. “I have tried to learn or have them show me different recipes, a lot of them will get me cookbooks from their home countries.”
In some cases, students go from being the only child to living with siblings or vice versa.
“I was very worried about it, because maybe they were very active or going to be kind of annoying,” Guardia said.
What he found instead was quite the opposite.
“I feel kind of a sensation as a big brother and that is a thing that I love,” Guardia said. “For example, when they come from soccer and are like ‘hey Esteve, we won the soccer game,’ I am like feeling very proud of my brothers.”
Culturally, the students are still getting used to the American way.
“In the Netherlands, we just don’t say ‘thank you’ that much,” Clausing said. “We just know you appreciate it. So here, I am really focused on saying thank you for everything. Also, with saying ‘I love you’ or we don’t hug people in the Netherlands that often. Here, you hug everybody and say ‘I love you’ to everybody and I am like yeah great.”
They have expressed how much they have enjoyed their host parents and the American experience. They would like to say thank you for everything they have done for them, in their own way.
The host parents want to encourage other parents to get their kids to interact with exchange students, and help them learn a little about American culture while also learning about their culture. They added that you might be surprised about how similar we all are.
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