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Exchange students share their cultural diversity

Foreign exchange student Guilia Seif-Ali teaches her Spanish class. Photo by Alyssa Rice

It’s a whole new world when students from overseas join us at Bear River.

This year, foreign exchange students from several different countries have become Bruins in order to experience American high school life.

Principal Dr. Amy Besler shared how Bear River High School welcomes the incoming foreign exchange students.

“Our student body and staff are so welcoming and accommodating,” she said. “I meet with our exchange students each year, at the beginning and end of their experience with us, and they are always so appreciative of how kind, friendly, and fun our students and staff members are. Most exchange students are pleasantly surprised by the wealth of activities that accompany a high school experience in America; in most of their home countries, school is only about going to class — if you play sports or participate in other activities, it is usually not connected to school. “

Dr. Besler also talked about concerns that she has with the students.

“Our main concern is that our exchange students feel comfortable, make friends, and understand the language well enough to have a successful experience,” said Dr. Besler. “Exchange students are always strong students in their home countries and must have a certain level of English proficiency in order to participate, which helps.”

Science Teacher Jennifer Weir, who is hosting a foreign exchange student, expressed her experience so far with hosting.

“Hosting a foreign student is fun and also a big change for our family,” she said. “We are all growing as individuals as we adjust to the new situation. I am so happy to have Anna as a part of our family.”

Mrs. Weir went on to explain some cultural differences they have experienced.

“We have experienced a few cultural differences, mostly related to school,” she said. “For example – the amount of homework, school sports, dress-up days, etc. in US schools is different than in Norway. We discovered that we share a love of playing games with Anna. Anna has taught us a number of card games that she plays with friends in Norway and we have shared some games that we play here in the US.”

Mrs. Weir’s hosting experience is a little bit different from everyone else.

“Our situation is a little unique,” she said. “Anna Smidt is the daughter of the exchange student my family hosted when I was a sophomore in high school. Anna’s mom and I have maintained our close friendship into adulthood.  Anna met Abby many many years ago and we all hoped that she would someday want to be an exchange student, too.”

“Bear River directly benefits when exchange students share their culture and life experiences with us. It may encourage us to be more tolerant, yearn to travel, or hear different experiences.” said Weir

Isabella Ferreira, an exchange student from Brazil, talked about how her experience is going for her in California.

“I love California, the weather is like very similar to Brazil so it’s not so hard to adapt,” she said. “I like my classes because in Brazil we cannot choose our classes. I like that I can choose my classes.”  

Ferreira went on to explain some difficulties she is facing.

“I guess it’s hard to be away from my mom and I have to be alone and try to be more like independent of them,” said Ferreira.

Giulia Seif-Ali, a student from Italy, expressed her love for California and for her fellow students.

“I love California,” she said.”I love the place. I love my high school. I love the people especially.”

She also elaborated on the differences between her home in Italy and here at Bear River.

“The biggest different is everything here is huge,” said Seif-Ali. “Where I live, everything is so little and here it’s huge; from the school to the cars to the, you know, everything. But especially the most beautiful thing I have found in the difference between my country and here is that people here are so kind with me. (They are) polite and they always try to make you feel comfortable and you guys are amazing, I love you guys.”

Seif-Ali then went on to portray her appreciation for her host family.

“I love my host family,” she said. “I’ve been one of the most luckiest people on earth to meet them and have them as my host family. I love them, they always try to help me. They pick me up, they take me to the volleyball practice, they help me with whatever I want to do. They are always there for me.”

Seif-Ali also got into detail on her hardest part of being away from home.

“The hardest part about being away from family that I can’t tell my mom my problems, like I can’t hug her,” she said. “I have beautiful relationship with (my mom) and not having her here, it’s a bit complicated, but my host family helps me a lot.”

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Exchange students share their cultural diversity