Across the World and Back

A look into the lives of the foreign exchange students at WBHS

Across the World and Back

Every place you go in the world is unique. Whether you go from one town to another or travel to an entirely different continent, there are similarities and differences between those two places. Foreign exchange students get the opportunity to live with a local family and immerse themselves in American culture. At the start of the 2013-2014 school year, West Bloomfield High School welcomed eight students from all different parts of the world into our school.

Antek Anton Zawacki and Kim-Chiara Langner are from Germany and are both staying in the United States for the entire year. Germany is located in Western Europe and has a population of 81,799,600 as of 2010. Both Langner and Zawacki say that one of the biggest differences between Germany and America is the school system. In Germany, the students stay in the same classroom all day and the teachers rotate from room to room. Also, they do not have school sports and American schools offer a larger variety of electives than in Germany. “The school is huge here,” adds Zawacki. Apart from school, there is a big difference in transportation. In Michigan, everyone travels by car as the main mode of transportation. But in Germany, “you can take the bus or train to go anywhere,” says Zawacki.

Langner traveled to the U.S. hoping to see as much as possible, meet new people, make new friends, and just see another culture and lifestyle and her host family is making sure she gets to do just that. Langner is staying with Junior Lyndsay Crane and her family. They have taken her to Makinac Island and have plans to take Langner to California and Florida to show her different cities. As for hosting a foreign exchange student, Crane says, “It’s different; you get to learn her culture.”

Brita Maria Romsdale Haetta traveled from Norway to West Bloomfield and is staying for the entire year. Norway is located in Europe, with Sweden to its East. It is the second least densely populated country in Europe with a population just above five million with one-fifth of the population living in its capital city Oslo. Haetta says that the biggest differences are with the people, the food, and the school. “The people here are so friendly,” says Haetta. Also, she explains how food in America is more fried and unhealthy than in Norway. She says that school here has a lot more rules and is more strict in America. In Norway, they are allowed to go out and eat for lunch then come back for the rest of their school day.

Maria Gabriella Ottaviani is from Italy and is staying the whole year. Italy is a peninsula located in southern Europe with a population of 59.7 million. Its capital and largest city is Rome which is a center for politics and religion. Ottaviani says she loves America and although she wants to see the big cities, she also likes West Bloomfield. The weather and school are the biggest differences for Ottaviani. Italy usually has much warmer winters than Michigan. They also do not switch classes or have block scheduling like at WBHS. Ottaviani hopes to improve on her English during her stay.

Laura Marie Linholm is from Estonia and is staying in West Bloomfield for the entire year. Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe and with a population of 1.3 million; it is one of the least populated countries in Europe. Her favorite thing about America is that “the people are so nice here.” Coming from a small country, school here is much bigger and there are a lot more people to meet. In her school in Estonia, she was with the same classmates all day. Prior to traveling, Linholm did not have many expectations. “I didn’t expect anything because I didn’t want to disappoint myself,” says Linholm. As for her stay here, she hopes to improve her English and grow mentally as a person. She would also like to see Disneyland and New York City.

Claudia Arcilla Rodriguez is from Mexico. Mexico is just south of the United States and its population is estimated at over 113 million making it the eleventh most populated country in the world. Rodriguez’s favorite things about America are the school and the people. Much like many other countries, in Mexico, students stay in the same classes with the same classmates for the entire school day unlike WBHS. A big difference in Mexican culture compared to American culture is in Mexico, people go out and stay out later. Rodriguez stays in touch with her family back home by skyping, texting, and talking on Facebook with them at least three times a week. While she is here, Rodriguez hopes to, “have new experiences and learn different kinds of life.”

Gen Miyagi is from Japan and is staying for three months. Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands just off the coast of China. Its capital is Tokyo, the largest metropolitan city in the world with 30 million people living in the city alone. Miyagi hopes to learn English during his stay. When asked about the differences between schools, Miyagi says, “Being able to choose classes is different. It’s interesting.” Also, lunch time is shorter here than in Japan. Miyagi says that what he misses most about Japan is the food.

Yizhuo “Tracy” Jia is from China and is staying for the entire year. China is the most populated country in the world with over 1.5 billion people living in the country. “I want to improve my English and enjoy the different culture,” says Jia. Jia says that the language is different and so is the school system. WBHS offers different subjects than her school in China and we start earlier. “The lockers are difficult to open,” Jia adds.

Many of the foreign exchange students at WBHS are part of the Youth for Understanding (YFU) foreign exchange program.YFU is one of the largest foreign exchange programs in the world. They offer many different programs that allow students to travel the world and experience new things in an educational way. YFU offers not only semester and year-long programs but also summer programs such as Germany, Japan, Spain, France, Italy, and many more. YFU also offers many different scholarships to allow a wide range of students the opportunity to be involved in foreign exchange. Currently, Junior Jack Brenner is studying abroad in Germany with the YFU program. Students interested in foreign exchange student or hosting one can visit or contact Oakland County’s YFU representative Barb Killka at (248)932-0811.