Nine students, one world

Coming to America is an opportunity for students in other countries to leave their home to experience a new culture.

This year there are nine foreign exchange students. All nine of them follow the exchange policy which has students stay in the states with their host-family for 10 months August 2012 – June 2013.

Two exchange students are from Spain: Saraswati Rubio and Mikel Rodriguez Monasterio.

“I want to live in America because the first time at the airport, I thought my life would change and it would be hard to adapt but it wasn’t,” Saraswati Rubio said.

Rodriguez Monasterio shared a few different aspects of the town where he is from.

“The people here are friendlier but the culture and laws are different. Many people smoke in my country and it’s not ‘bad’ to do it,” Rodriguez Monasterio said. “But here in America, if you do it when you’re young, you look like a bad student.”

Each of the nine foreign exchange students didn’t only pack a bag, they also brought their diverse culture with them. Most say none of their town’s are quite like Puyallup, except for Jacob Kristensen. He described that where he lives in Denmark is somewhat like Puyallup.

“There aren’t any mountains but the cities there look a lot like Puyallup,” Kristensen said.

Kristensen is currently on the cross country team and will be trying out for the boys’ soccer team this spring. However, the rest of the exchange students are from different countries. One student, Mari Bolkvadze, is from Russia.

“Moscow is very big, like New York City, there are 12 million people living there,” Bolkvadze said. “It’s so busy and has lots of traffic.”

Bolkvadaze is from Moscow, Russia but was born in the country Georgia. She has two younger siblings back home and likes to play the piano.

The students each stated that PHS is not like the schools back home. Classes, passing periods and the food are all very different.

“Classes [in Moscow] each have one large group that stays in that classroom all day. The teachers are the ones who have to move from class to class,” Elsa Gutierrez said. “There are private schools there, not public. We have to wear uniforms.”

The school Axel Barateau goes to in France restricts all students from eating, drinking or listening to music during class. A normal school day starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. with 55 minute classes. The lunch breaks vary from two to four hours depending on the day. Barateau enjoys the lax rules here but misses the food served in his school in France.

“The one thing I would change is the food,” Barateau said. “At school, we have 10 chefs who cook meat, fish and veggies. I miss the food.”

Being a newcomer to a new school is always a little stressful—let alone a new country. Due to being new, there are a few adjustments Iida Korhonen has to work with. If she could change one rule it would be the hall passes.

“I don’t like the hall pass. It makes me feel like a child,” Korhonen said.

Korhonen comes from Finland and she is on the girls’ soccer team with another exchange student named Elsa Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is a junior this year and is from Mexico.

“I like the soccer team. They accept me; I think that’s nice,” Gutierrez said.

Junior Samuel Kozuch is from Slovakia and played on our football team. Back at home, he plays handball and swims.

The biggest difference between America and Slovakia is how many different ethnic groups there are. In Slovakia, Kozuch stated that the people there are mostly Caucasian.

“My first impression of PHS was that it’s a big school,” Kozuch said. “There are a lot of people but I wasn’t nervous.”

The reason so many students decide to take one year off of school from their home country and come here, is because they want to experience a new culture.

Helene Block is an exchange from Germany and currently plays on the volleyball team. In her spare time, she likes to walk in nature and to jog around town. She says that the only thing she was disappointed in when coming to PHS was how hard it was to get to know people.

“Everyone already has a group,” Block said. “I thought it would be easier but I’ve made many friends now.”

Rodriguez Monasterio shared that the students and staff are more outgoing and are friendlier than the people back home. He finds it great that he can have more relationships with other groups.

The school spirit of Puyallup Vikings is evident. All of the exchange students said, “there is more spirit here for sports than back at home.”

Principal Jason Smith went up to Bolkvadze during the first few days of school. She had no idea who he was until someone pointed out to her he was the principal.

“The principal in Russia is viewed as a scary guy; one who’s locked up in his office,” Bolkvadze said. “It was so cool to see the principal in jeans and a regular shirt.”

Carrie Keizur is a teacher to a few of the exchange students.

“They seem to be adapting well and socializing comfortably with other students,” Keizur said.

Even though they come from different countries, they’re here for the same reason—to experience the American culture.

They have unpacked their diversity and are now ready to experience the life of a teenager in America.