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Exchange students tell about life in their countries | by Carol (vanhookc)
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Exchange students tell about life in their countries

Long! But worth the read... (My most, ever, viewed picture on Flickr)


The international exchange students interviewed by Stephen and Claudia, Southeast Polk Senior High School Student Council members--the moderators were:


Air Singkaravanich -Thailand

Almaz Kamalov - Russia

Andreas Ebert - Germany

Daisy Sun - China

Giammarco Miani - Italy

Martina Hudak - Serbia (at Baxter High School, today's guest)

Munif Khan - Bangladesh

Raissa Pinheiro Alves - Netherlands/Brazil

Reneta Krivonozova - Bulgaria (at Baxter High School, today's guest)

Simon Bellwald - Switzerland

Suzy Grigoryan - Armenia


(By student guest blogger: Jessica Dost (Freshman) and a few edit by the exchange student)


Okay, this is the session for students from SEP to ask the foreign exchange students questions. It'll be really intriguing, and I'll try to get all the questions answered and typed out. Hope you enjoy! Next will be the "Taste of the Nations". I'm a bit nervous right now for the food. Please note that this session will be connected with Twitter and Facebook as to let students share the information we learn about the session. if you would like to read some of these tweets look up at #SEPCulture.


Q: How do you feel differently about coming to America?

A: Munif: My accent has changed so far. This is the longest time I have been away from home. I will be a different man once I return back home.

Andreas: It feels like 10 years full of change. Over the time I have spent here, I have learned about myself and how my host family is different from my family at home. I appreciate my family at home more and I really miss my family at home.

Simon: improved relationship with sister back home, learned a lot about myself. Giammarco: I am more lazy, appreciate others more. Several exchange students: gained weight. Some others: We had the opportunity to see Chicago, Arizona, Las Vegas, Texas.


Q:What have you seen outside of Iowa in the United States?

A:(Almaz) Texas stinks, loved Hoover Dam, Mall of America, Washington -- (Suzy) Capitol and the monuments in Washington D.C were really pretty


Q: How easy to adapt

A: (Simon ) Fairly easy. Lori Slings helped (Munif)! I am from farther east, really great change. We do not shake hands with our left hand. We do not say thank you as much as Americans do! (Suzy) At the new year (upset about it) Asian and Europe celebrate the holiday differently. (Andreas) At first would fit in, later on it was harder and harder; keep old values and add new; go back and re-adapt, every one diff (Air) Her tutor / foreign teacher , before coming to America, helped her understand that in America, smoking is not sexy, drugs, and that alcohol can is bad for teenagers.


Q: Stayed in contact with friends? If so, how?

(Andreas) Facebook yes, after a while contact dried out; not really part of each other's lives. This is hard and sad but still friends.

(AIR) stayed in contact via Twitter and Facebook, school. We used to hang-out a lot, go eat, take pics back home. (Giammarco) Back home used to go to a lot of parties. In the U.S., I was doing nothing at first. It's different but better life, lost contact with those back home. I would get Facebook messages from home...Are you dead or alive? HA! It is hard to keep in contact when you have been gone a long time!


Q: Embarrassing moments in America?

( Who would think? [both guest exchange student from Baxter High School and Haissa] When the teacher hands out paper, instead of taking one but handing out pieces of papers to the first one and expecting that person to hand them out, the exchange student just kept them all! Very embarrassing! (Haissa) (Daisy) only pointed at foods wanted in the cafeteria because they didn't know what to call the food items! Didn't like food (Munif)! Numerous embarrassing moments and STILL counting! (Almaz) rode the bus first day; got off first stop, walked off with younger kids, who didn't communicate when he asked where they were going! He didn't understand and they didn't understand. He ended up at the junior high on the top of the hill instead of the high school at the bottom of the campus!!! --We really need an Ambassador to stay with us for a day or two of the new school year!


Q: Differences between schools

(Simon) lot less homework in American schools; (Munif) requirement to keep above a C or no scholarship, less homework here, pages after pages, more practical study here in Iowa than theoretical work. Back home, I had to write more papers. Bangladesh-His British Curriculum high school--one class but teachers rotated from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. No freedom of passing time or choosing one's own classes. In America--different subjects, stricter and better. More awesome and friendlier teachers! (Andreas) strict and organized here, more freedoms in Germany, (embarrassing) Andreas didn't show up to study hall first couple of time. He had tardies, lots of them, as he didn't understand our system! (Many other exchange students shared) Our schools offer no extra-curricular activities. (Suzy) more stricter than in America: no makeup-jewelry, definitely no shorts. No long hair (Daisy) here is easier, not as many projects or presentations, so much fun here!


Q:Are you through with school when return/what to come?

Haissa : already graduated -- Simon of Switzerland - 3 years left I am 17 almost 18; high school is 5 years, 2 done but this year doesn't count, so I have three to go!

(AIR) going to college

(Bulgarian girl from Baxter High School) whole bunch of exams to graduate; hope to go to college for business

(Andreas) I am a junior in high school. This was like a vacation here. (Daisy) Want to go to college in America to study science,

(Munif) British Curriculum: One year to get prepared to take SAT/TOEFL test, and then I hope to go to a college in the USA in Kentucky,

For many, this year as an exchange students was a "pause" year in their education. The experiences, however, were tremendous.


Q: new words that you learned here that stand out -- make sure they are appropriate to share!

(Andreas) "like" "just" "kinda", I found the American language confusing first couple of weeks. In the beginning, I kept a list on my cell phone and then Igave up on that! Andreas learned a lot of farm words here in Iowa! He spent quality time at the Iowa State Fair and loved every minute of it!


Q:What are the stereotypes that other countries have of the Americans? What improvements we can make?

(Raissa) some think Americans are egotistical, not very smart, but we know that is not true! How could we improve the testing in our schools? The biggest issue is the multiple choice test. Really, what good is that? Let the students explain what they are learning! Make seniors have to take finals in all subjects. Tests could be harder--make the students really think and apply what they have learned.

(Baxter High School exchange student) not everybody is blond, not everybody has iPods, in America not every city is big, not every one is obese. (Suzy) same as Haissa says! Our country see America through TV shows and thinks there are actresses and singers and etc. everywhere!


Others think all Americans eat is fast food. This is not really true, not everyone is obese, as a matter of fact, my host family doesn't eat fast food. "Most of us have gained weight"--lots of exchange students nod their heads! But some where quick to say they had not! (Andreas) American TV shows just do not show the real picture of America! He says, not everyone lives the big social life, gets drunk--like TV depicts.


The exchange students say, Americans are worried about stereotypes--that we think about how we looks /act and that we focus so much on what's behind the typical American. [Great thoughts to ponder!]


Q: Is the military mandatory, women and men?

(Simon) men are required after high school,24 or 48 weeks, 2 weeks each. He would like to join the Air Force or National Guard. He pointed out that Switzerland is neutral. They do not fight. After serving in the military, the people gets to keep their guns. Shooting in the back yard is not allowed. Out in the country, here, we can shoot guns in the backyard.

(Suzy) mandatory, men after high school for 2 years, or college then army


Q: Holidays, parades, etc.?

(Baxter High School) Christmas, Easter, New Years--they just don't seem big here. This was disappointing. 6th of May and 1st of May, following the calendar, named after saint, so celebrate the saint!

(Giammarco) more food in home country, fun to dance with grandmas and moms, different foods, New Years Eve is big, fireworks, throw plates out windows--dangerous sometimes, random holidays, medieval, we have orange fights where we throw oranges at people--back home! Sometimes it hurts. We celebrate!

(Suzy) We are so proud that we are the first nation to adapt Christianity.


Q:What about your religions? Do they differ from here?

(Munif) Our country has mainly Muslims, and then Hindu, as well as a small number of Buddhist, Christians, and other religions. We have a festival known as Eid where we go to the field and pray--Last year in Russia, hundreds of thousands of people in streets, hugging, happy eve. amazing scene, lots of bowing. We must try to learn more about other religions and their practices. We need to respect religious practices of others. (Baxter exchange student) Quote: The world is a giant place, but it is also small." We must begin to understand, accept, and connect with the diversity of others worldwide!


Q: Can you describe a typical American thing you will remember when you go back:

(Andreas) Iowa State Fair, host family in there, really different, fun, crowds of obese people, food, everything on stick, chocolate, amazing, food would always be like that, volunteering in different countries, free stuff, talking to people, really good time in first 2 weeks

(Munif) Casey Owens, Mrs. VanHook, Mrs. Henning, Mr. Bredlow, Mr.Dietenbach, and all the other teachers and students. Winter formal, and dance, having senior pictures taken!

(Baxter HS student) volunteering, prom and after prom, totally different, remember it forever

(Giammarco) senior pictures, lots of different things, no prom back home, school sports, no sports back home. In America, the teen life is around the school!

(Baxter HS student) Black Friday!!!


Q: Describe social life back home: jobs, driving age, hobbies?

(Haissa) Home: go to city, restaurants, get into clubs when 16, festivals, social life is big, rarely stayed home, parents not happy that we are never home, always outside and such.

(Daisy) driving is 18, job is 18, child labor some places. No job for students under 18!

(Munif) driving is 18, there are socioeconomic divisions, different levels--rich, middle class, and poor, with no dating between different divisions, not meant to date. Marriages are usually arranged by families, although with permission of bride and groom.


Q: Are the boys and girls more beautiful here or in your country?

(Baxter student) more beautiful here, boyfriends are jerks, cuter often equals meaner--cute boys are not necessarily nicer!

(Almaz) this is one of the most common questions--answers differ whether the boy or girl is asking me the question.

(Raissa) Brazilian boys, yes. Russians are the best, American boys are better.

(Daisy) different opinions, Justin Beiber is cute although he IS Canadian!

(Munif) Almaz is being polite--who are the best of the best, smart girls are not necessarily best looking!

(Simon) American girls are very nice! The guys? Well, I don't really care about them!


Q: What can you do in America that you can't do in your country?

(Daisy) Facebook is illegal in China.

(Simon) shooting guns in the back yard

(Suzie) drinking age is 16 in Armenia.

(Air) free stuff, download, and apple bees--not available in Thailand.

(Andreas) You have to be a lot more mature for driving in Germany. 16 is not enough.

(Giammarco) I miss the drinking age, not with friends, but with relatives. Weddings are awesome, at the end is traditional music, dancing.


Q:What is most important thing in America

(Andreas) Differences do not matter. W must all work together.

(Suzy) learned about self, how much she loves her country, thinking she will go away and will never miss and wouldn't care but now she feels bad to be leaving America

(Munif) When making fun of terrorism, if cross a certain point you will be bullying. (This was just for fun, no problems.) You shouldn't care when people are talking crude about you, My dad is in journalism and when I was a kid, I got the opportunity to work in the newspaper.

(Simon) same as Suzie, awesome host family, but mom and dad are best, holidays in the beginning without family, learn how to handle

(Reneta) world is giant and small at the same time) It's not only about you. It's cool to know about other countries. "The world is big but not that big" when you think about globalization.

(Air) she loves her countries and parents

(Martina) family and country, not as scared when public speaking, not scared to trying new things,

(Daisy) Learned about self and country. Taiwan is country. She didn't know it before. When home she uses her money however she wants --sniffles a little bit.

(Raissa) be more independent and appreciate parents and not take things for granted,

(Italy) during the year you learn to be responsible. I was alone for the first and only time, when I leave my parents. At first, bye is alright. But then in the hotel room, I am all alone. And next the crazy adventure begins! After a week, I talk with host and family and I am fine without my family. But now, I appreciate more and I appreciate both of our cultures.

(Almaz) everything is different not bad or worse, most exchange students don't like the food. But learning the difference is the fun part.


Q: Tell us about one thing that reminds you of home.

(Giammarco) pasta

(Andreas) There are jokes about Nazis and Jews, German's past, and racism. The discrimination of one group of people against another group in the US schools can lead to racism. This should never happen.

(Baxter HS student) dances

(Simon) mountains in Arizona


Q: Do you think your country is more diverse or vice-versa?

Raissa: About the same, except for the different people. It's not just in Iowa either, it's the entire USA. [Not every region of the USA is the same!]


Q: Are you sad to be returning back home?

(Munif) sad and happy at the same time about leaving, fallen in love with school and teachers.

(Simon) two sides, one here, and another home, people

(Daisy) host mother, and will cry

(Giammarco) Kinda sad but alright. It's a part of life. You just do not spend entire life with others you meet. You enjoy, learn from, build on you own character, and then move on.

(Almaz) He'll miss being here!


Q: Name one thing that you did here in America that you would not try at home.

Giammarco: Shaving my head. I was on the swimming team. During the week of state conference I got sick that week, and didn't attend but I did shave my head anyway.


A note from our student blogger, Jessica: Well that was pretty entertaining switching all the short notes I took during the Q&A session into full responses from each of the foreign exchange students. Just learning about their country and such was amazing. Everybody listening so intently to the person talking. From the questions that the students here at Southeast Polk had for the exchange. I'll be terribly upset when they leave, yet I'll be glad that they will be with their family and friends. I hope to keep in contact with several of them. I can't wait for more to come within the next 3 years while I am in high school. I would really like to host at least one and be able to let them experience life with my family here in America. I look forwards to getting to getting to know any of them within the next 3 years.


Overall, it was really fun. I didn't try a lot of the food, but from what I heard from a friend it was really good. All of it!


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Taken on May 3, 2012