Foreign Exchange Students Join Community

Millions of students have traveled from various countries to be able to come and study in the United States. This year, nine students from across the globe have come to Puyallup, Wash. to study in the historic downtown area at PHS.

Jason Smith, principal, was ecstatic with the introduction of these exchange students and happy to introduce them to America and to the school.

“[The exchange students] can bring a sense of culture, a different world view, different opinions, different ideas and all of those differences can enrich our community, school and lives; if we are open to listening and learning from them as they learn from us,” Smith said.

At the time of first arrival to America, Alessandra Grilli from Italy had a hard time adjusting to the new surroundings.

“It is hard to be away from home, especially the first and second day, when you don’t do anything, you think about your family and friends at home. I try and call them, to talk to my family and friends,” Grilli said. “Our local coordinator says to only talk to them on the weekend. If we text or contact our friends at home it’s like we aren’t here.”

Smith mentions that the new students will prosper and learn from the different ways of living.

“They get a chance to experience a different culture. They get to experience a teenage life in the United States. I think that’s pretty neat for them. It is a different educational system,” Smith said. “Even though English is much of their second language, they do very well. I think it is really interesting to look at.”

Although the surroundings are different from her beginning environment, Aziza Razanti from Indonesia has adjusted quickly and seems to enjoy PHS.

“So far the country has been very nice to me. I have seen many cultural differences on how people talk to each other and differences in the food. Teenagers are very active here; they do a lot of activities,” Razanti said.

There are many established differences in America compared to other countries throughout the world, including religion.

“Everything is different; food, clothes, the people are more friendly, even the chairs and tables,” Grilli said. “Before I came to America I took three days in a class. They told us not to have prejudices. They told us to think that everything is different, not bad. At the church, it’s like a concert. At home I am a Catholic, it is very different.”

Razanti also had experienced different standpoints of religion compared to what she is used to.

“Most people in my country are religious but here you get to choose your religion. Kids are more independent and mature. They don’t have very many restrictions in their community.

At home we are more respectful of our parents. You put them at a very high priority, there is a social hierarchy,” Razanti said.

Apart from religion, there are many stereotypes about Americans which may or may not be true.

“The prejudices are thinking that everything here is bigger. Maybe not healthy food. Also that the school here is simple. Now that I’m here, I don’t think so,” Grilli said. “People in Italy think that it is easy here because you can choose your subjects but if you choose a hard course, it’s not simple,” Grilli said.

Razanti has different views than Grilli, although some have been resolved by experiencing these situations herself.

“I thought that Americans were anorexic. They are not as ruthless as I thought they were. They have been really respectful of me and my religion. The food is the worst part. Too salty and too sweet,” Razanti said.

Sports are also different in America compared to other countries, apart from the sport of football commonly being compared to what we would call soccer, club sports are held differently.

“Most of the sports overseas are club sports. While we have club sports too, we also have sports housed within the school. It’s neat when they jump in and participate,” Smith said.

These students have just started their journey here in America and both have goals for themselves to learn and grow while here.

“I hope to gain understanding from this experience. I want people to know that Muslims aren’t as you think,” Razanti said. “I want to see and remove my stereotypes of you Americans, that you don’t bully each other and you aren’t ruthless, I hope to learn a lot here.”