Wichita Falls Celebrates International Education Week


WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) — We’re celebrating International Education Week by highlighting the EF exchange program that connects high school students from other countries with American host families.

The students come from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. They flew across the world, leaving behind friends and family, which isn’t easy. But you’ll be happy to know that they’re making the most of every minute.

They traveled over 15,000 miles together for the chance to study in the United States, which is very different from their home schools.

“One of the most important things is the size of the school,” said exchange student Esteve Guardia. “Here, you have to move from one class to another and in Spain you stay in the same class all the time. The first day I was a little lost looking around the rooms.

“The school is really so different because we have another year, we are 13 years old whereas here they are 12,” said Flavio Casale, an exchange student. “Another difference is that here they see school as a place to get to know people, whereas we just do it to learn.”

The way things are taught is also different.

“For teachers in the Netherlands, it’s really about independence,” said exchange student Lisette Walker. “They are there to help but you have to go to them and here the teachers guide the students through that.”

Another benefit is school sports and extracurricular activities, something students don’t have in their home schools.

“I do cheerleading in high school, which is really fun because in the Netherlands we don’t have cheerleaders or football or anything like that,” Walker said. “Then different classes. I’m interior design, psychology. This kind of course we don’t have in the Netherlands. You can take them at the college level but not in high school.

While they enjoy trying new things, they also bring homegrown talent with them.

One of the biggest concerns of students leaving home was actually food. They weren’t sure if it would compare to what they used to eat, but luckily they have great host families to help them out.

“We had to adapt to learning about different cuisines because we don’t want them to get homesick,” said Starkovich Forster, high school exchange coordinator and foster parent. “I tried to teach or show them different recipes, many of them will get me cookbooks from their home countries.”

In some cases, students move from being an only child to living with siblings or vice versa.

“I was very worried about that because maybe they were very active or they were going to be a bit boring,” Guardia said.

What he found instead was quite the opposite.

“I get a kind of big brother feeling and that’s one thing I love,” Guardia said. “For example, when they come from football and they say ‘Hey Esteve, we won the football game’, I feel like I’m very proud of my brothers.”

Culturally, students are still getting used to the American way.

“In the Netherlands we just don’t say ‘thank you’ that much,” Walker said. “We just know you like it. So here, I’m really focused on saying thank you for everything. Also, saying “I love you” or we don’t often hug people in the Netherlands. Here you hug everybody and say “I love you” to everybody and I’m like yeah great.

They expressed how much they appreciated their host parents and the American experience. They would like to say thank you for everything they have done for them, in their own way.

Host parents want to encourage other parents to bring their children to interact with exchange students and help them learn a bit more about American culture while learning about their culture. They added that you might be surprised how similar we all are.


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