The American Experience: Foreign Exchange Students Say Goodbye

Zahara Latson, A&E Editor

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One year ago students traveled here from all across the world to attend our school and live in our country and now they must pick up their things and their memories and say goodbye to a place that many called home.

“I’m really sad, I’m really really sad,” Japanese exchange student Kanon Hamajima said. “I got some best friends and my host family care about me. When I have some problems I talk to them, they protect me and are there for me.”   

They have made personal connections and friends throughout the year and acquired a second family. It has become their safe place, a home.

“The people I have met made my trip fell very welcome here, from the day I got here because of my host family,”  Swedish exchange student Mikaela Nilsson-Schulz said.

Overcoming challenges with their surroundings, they begin to deeply understand the differences within our culture and their way of life. This has been a big part of the journey.

“ I feel like I have become more bold, standing up for myself more, taking more risks and learning not to overthink everything,” Nilssen-Schulz said.

“I’m proud of myself because I can speak Japanese and English and I’m learning Spanish,” Hamajima said. “Sometimes people look down at me because I’m from an Asian country, but no ,I’m brave and I can speak more languages than you.”

She says that because of cultural differences she misunderstood people and why they did things.

“Before I couldn’t understand the way they talked without help, but now it’s getting better,” Hamajima said.

These students have encountered so many new things, and got to go places they never would have seen back home.

“My host family took me to Disney World, I loved it so much,”German exchange student Lucy Kinkel said. “We don’t have Disneyland or World in Germany. I bought my wand at Universal Studios and I wore my mickey mouse ears during the fireworks, I almost cried.”

Sometimes, however, the things they miss at home outweigh the fun and new experiences.

I don’t have as much freedom, and I can’t get out on my own as much anymore,” Nilssen-Schulz said. “My parents need to know where I am all the time.

Their families are all at home and the days become harder when you take away the people that are most familiar with you.

“I miss people around me who speak Japanese,” Hamajima said. “But I got stronger and I do love it here.”

These students brought  joy and culture into our hallways. They were a part of our groups, one of our friends, and even a part of our families. I am sure students will dearly miss their positive contributions to the local community.