Foreign exchange students get adjusted to new lifestyle

GlenOak’s foreign exchange students get used to life in America.


Taylor Noe

A collage of the exchange students who were interviewed. They are very happy to have this opportunity and be here at GlenOak. “I love this school, it is so much fun and way more interesting an dynamic than my Italian school.” Senior Francesco Vialardi said. Left to right: Daniele Falsaperla, Johanna Schidmt, and Francesco Vialardi.

New school, new friends, a whole new life but only for one year.

GlenOak High School’s foreign exchange program is making a once in a lifetime opportunity into a reality for many students across the globe. Lots of new exchange students have been seen this year at the school due to COVID-19 restrictions recently being lifted. 

However, an opportunity like this does not come without an adjustment. Senior Johanna Schmidt is from Germany and has already noticed dissimilarities.

“My school [in Germany] is actually very nice,” Schmidt said. “Many schools in Germany are totally rancid and not nearly as nice and organized as American high schools.” 

Not only are the schools different but sports aren’t as recognized in Germany as they are in America. 

“There are about 400 students at my school [in Germany],” Schmidt said. “There is no football team or marching band either.”

Many of the schools in Germany start at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. This leaves no after school clubs to be held. To make up for this, there are classes that can be taken voluntarily, such as the arts. 

“There are many compulsory subjects like math, history, biology, or chemistry,” Schmidt said.

Outside of school and classes, there are several holidays that Schmidt has never celebrated before. 

“In Germany we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, Independence [Day], or homecoming” Schidmt said. 

Not only are the holidays in America new for the exchange students, but the food and dining customs in America are too.

Senior Francesco Vialardi is from Italy and has experienced firsthand the difference in eating habits between America and Italy.

“American people seem to all eat at different times and when they want,” Vialardi said. “In Italy the whole family usually sets the time when have lunch and dinner and we never change, here I had dinner at 5 p.m. for the first time.”

For Vialardi this was much unlike what he was used to, considering in Italy he would eat dinner at 7 p.m. every night. Still, dinner is not the only meal time that has distinctly changed for Vialardi, so has lunch.

“If I’m not at school we eat [lunch] at 1 p.m., otherwise [we eat] whenever I get home, usually at about 2:30 p.m.,” Vialardi said. “We don’t have lunch at school, everybody goes home to eat.”

Many European countries do not stay in school for lunch, instead they go home to enjoy time with their friends and families while eating.

In addition to eating, another quite important topic is the exchange students language barrier. For someone who was not born into a place where English is spoken, learning English has been shown to be among the most difficult languages to learn.

“I had to make new friends and attend lectures in a foreign language,” Vialardi said. “It was a little stressful the first day.” 

Luckily, after some time settling in at the high school things got better. 

Daniele Falsaperla is also a senior from Italy, who felt the same way as Vialardi.

“It is certainly not easy initially to come to a new school in another country,” Falsaperla said. “But professors and friends have made it easier.”

The students and teachers at GlenOak are for the most part very welcoming, this has helped the exchange students feel comfortable at the high school.

“At school despite being an exchange student I feel like the other students,” Falsaperla said. 

Some of the GlenOak students are also a part of the host families.

Senior Sam Selby is part of the family that is hosting Schmidt.

“The biggest difference in my opinion is now I have two sisters as opposed to one, and I’ve lived with one sister my whole life,” Selby said.

The exchange students quickly become close to their host family since they are living in the home with them. Both the host family and exchange student still do need time to get used to a new family and a new child.

“I think she is adjusting pretty well but I do believe that she misses her old school,” Selby said.

The students who are fortunate enough to spend a year studying in a foreign nation are extremely appreciative and delighted to have the opportunity. Despite possibly experiencing some homesickness, they persevere and make the most out of their time here in America.