What it's like to host an exchange student
BY ZOE PETERS
I wanted to host an exchange student because I love languages and learning about different cultures. I thought it would be a great experience to become close to someone from another country to be able to experience those things.
Many people read through application after application looking for someone whom they feel is a good fit for their family. However, the way my family and I chose to host a long-term student was very different. We got involved with Greenheart Exchange through its two- week program that brought a group of students from France to BEHS last spring. The local coordinator, Judy Farwell, who is in charge of all Greenheart host programs in this area, came to my house to interview my family about hosting one of these students.
At some point, she began talking about long-term hosting, and even though my parents were not fans of the idea, she wanted to show us what a student bio looked like anyway. She skimmed through the names and quickly chose a girl that she had been trying to place for a while. My mom and I started reading all about her and were shocked at how similar she and I were. Our grades, interests, hobbies, and favorite subjects in school were all exactly the same. My mom looked at me and said, "How would you like to host an exchange student?"
Once we discussed it with my dad and told Judy our final decision, the process went quickly. There was a lot of paperwork, along with back- ground checks of the adults in the house, a home visit for Judy to see where Ilenia (my exchange student) would be sleeping and to take pictures of the house for Ilenia. We had to write a host family letter, which is a letter from the host family to their student so they can generally get to know the family. Host students write one into their applications too, before their families choose them.
Living with an exchange student has definitely been an interesting experience so far. I grew up as an only child, so I really like living with someone who’s my age; in some ways it’s like having a sister. But there’s definitely a challenging side to it too. It’s a challenge learning to live with someone new, especially because of the different cultural norms. Sometimes the language barrier can get in the way as well. Trying to communicate expectations, classes, or again, cultural norms can be difficult, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved.
Nevertheless, the most fun part is having a best friend that lives with me. It’s like having a year-long sleepover. I look forward to continuing to build our friendship. It’s so much fun getting to travel with Ilenia, and learning all about her culture.
To anyone thinking of hosting an exchange student, I suggest doing it! Take your time with choosing the right student. Find someone whose interests match up well with your family’s.
Meeting all kinds of new people this year
By Brenna Finn
Several months ago, junior Ilenia De Lucia was spending most of her free time studying back home; now she attends Bonny Eagle High School as a foreign exchange student.
Ilenia came here from a city in Italy called Verona. She arrived in the U.S. for the first time at the end of the summer, giving her time to get to know her host family before school started.
Back in Verona, Ilenia’s daily routine consisted of school in the morning, napping when she got home, and school work in the evening. She spent time with her friends on Saturdays and with her family on Sundays.
The 17-year-old exchange student is a member of the indoor track team here at BEHS. Ilenia also participated in cross country during the fall. In Verona, she was involved with dance.
“I wanted to try to do something we didn’t have,” she said about her new activities.
Not surprisingly, Ilenia has found lots of differences between life in America and Italy. For instance, her hometown is very different from the woods and trees of Standish; Verona, she says, contains mostly buildings and more shopping areas. She was baffled by the lack of stores and meeting places when she first got here.
“Portland is more similar to where I live,” she says. “You can walk around (there).”
Verona is also a year-round tourist attraction, so Ilenia says it is weird not to see many tourists in this part of Maine.
Another difference is the relationship between students and teachers. The teachers in Italy are stricter, she says. Ilenia also likes that we have more chances to improve on schoolwork, which is not the case in Italian schools.
So far, Ilenia says she has enjoyed her experience here. She loves attending her classes and meeting new people.
For more exchange student profiles, click on the Features tab above.
Challenging herself to explore and learn
BY ATHEN HOLLIS
Makhosazana Maphalala, or Khosee, is an exchange student from South Africa staying with chorus teacher Mr. Allen Thomas and his family.
She comes from Soweto and is fluent in English, Afrikaans, and Zulu. She understands the other nine languages spoken in South Africa but is completely fluent in three.
Khosee wanted to come to America to learn a different culture and teach those in the U.S. about her culture. She really likes her experience so far.
“It’s good and challenging at the same time,” she says. “It challenges your beliefs: what you’ve learned your whole life vs. what kids in the U.S. have been taught their whole life.”
During her stay, Khosee is really excited to be going to DisneyWorld in Florida. She also is looking forward to seeing Harvard University in Cambridge.
So far she has most enjoyed meeting people, getting out of her comfort zone, and trying new things she wouldn’t have tried back home.
The only thing she doesn’t like about America is that the “people aren’t as connected. They converse over their phones.” She doesn’t “like how society is built here over a phone rather than talking face to face.”
When she goes home after this school year, she will be excited to reflect on “who I was before and after the exchange.”
Pursuing her passion for photography
BY BRENNA FINN
Although junior Antonia Tapia, one of Bonny Eagle High School’s newest foreign exchange students, has only been in America since September, she has adjusted to her new life in the states nicely. The 17-year old has made new friends with students and has attended many classes of her personal interests.
Antonia is from a city in Chile called Rancagua. Her hometown is one hour away from Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city.
Antonia says Rancagua is very similar to Portland. She is used to living in a more city-based environment than she is encountering at BEHS. She is also used to having a balance between both buildings and a countryside, like our largest city in Maine.
Back in Rancagua, Antonia lived with her parents and 14-year old brother. She says she enjoyed the nice get togethers her family would have in the evening at the end of a school or work day. They usually occurred around 8 or 9 at night. Antonia and her family would join each other in their backyard and talk about life.
“Parents have a glass of wine. I have a glass of Coke,” she comments.
Antonia’s school system in Chile is very different from the systems in America. At her school, the students wear uniforms, unlike Bonny Eagle.
“I like wearing my own clothes more than uniforms. I wonder what I will wear the next day,” she explains.
In Chile, Antonia’s classes are picked for her, so she doesn’t have much of a choice. An aspect about BEHS that Antonia enjoys is that students have more say and freedom in what classes to take.
Antonia has also been able to take a class that she is very interested in, photography. Her school didn’t provide the subject, and she would have had to pay a lot more money to pursue this passion. She is thankful that the foreign exchange student program allowed her the opportunity to take the course.
Antonia has enjoyed her time at BEHS so far and she is planning on coming back to America in the future.
“I would definitely come back to America for vacation and to visit host families,” she said.
She would also like to visit America to get a doctoral degree after she goes to college in Chile for her Master’s.