Exchange students spice up life at Burroughs High School

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Exchange students spice up life at Burroughs High SchoolEight foreign exchange students have spent this school year attending Burroughs High School and living with host families here in the Indian Wells Valley. Three of them will graduate from BHS along with their classmates on May 31.

All eight gathered to discuss their experiences here in the United States.

“My experience was amazing. It was beyond my expectations. When I saw Ridgecrest on the map, I thought, what is this? There will be nothing to do. It really surprised me when I got here,” said Camilla Nebiolo, 18, from Turin, Italy.

“The people are really open and interested. I got a lot of opportunities to do things. I had to take classes in American history and government to get enough credits to graduate here. I really wanted to be part of the experience, with caps and gowns and throwing the cap in the air and the big party.

“In Italy we have no ceremony. We study so hard, then you go to school and see your name on a paper that says you graduated. That’s it. It’s very stressful. Here I learned to dream.”

She will give one of the graduation speeches.

Laerke Sibylline Kyed, 17, from Aarhus, Denmark, had a similar reaction to Ridgecrest.

“When I found out I was coming here, I thought, are you serious? I’m going to spend 10 months in the desert? No way! But now I like it.

“You see beautiful. There’s amazing sunsets and the night sky — so many stars! Everyone here is so giving.

“Everyone talks to everyone so you have a group of really good friends.”

While all the students said they really enjoyed their new friends, host families, BHS and Ridgecrest in general, they each discovered a few things that shocked them about life in the U.S.

For one thing, most of the students came from cultures where hugging is not common. Once they got used to hugging, they said that they enjoyed it, but that returning to a nonhugging culture would be an adjustment.

Isadora Savoia, 18, from Sao Paula, Brazil, found coming to a small town very different from life in a big city.

“Americans dance so weird! And here, in relationships, a boy can say you’re pretty. Then, after one week, they kiss, After two weeks, they make out. After two months, they have a baby. They break up, they get back together, they have another baby. They need to grow up first.”

Camilla described relationship patterns in Brazil. “First we meet the person. Before we kiss, we really need to know the person for two or three months. They you can say, hey, I think we’re ready for a relationship. Then the relationship lasts longer. We understand the other person better and support the other better instead of trying to control them.

“At home, you can hang out with other boys because they’re friends. Here, there’s more jealousy. The boys fight each other. They’re crazy here.”

“I think we’re more mature in relationships and we don’t change relationships like we change clothes,” said Isadora.

Manasnan Npanthavuthiyanont, 17, from Bangkok, Thailand, said she experienced culture shock.

“When I first got here, I understood nothing. I took seven years of English but it’s not like talking to people face to face. I’m very shy but here I have a best friend. We don’t have best friends in Thailand.”

Dominik Drewes, 16, from Hannover, Germany, said he was very excited to come to the desert.

“The heat makes it summer all year long. We have coldness in Germany so I enjoy the heat. I was shocked that Americans waste so much.” He said he’s interested in the recycling programs here.

Krystell Marin, 16, a native of Chiapas, Mexico, said that nothing shocked her. She enjoyed getting to do more things here than back home, like cooking and chores. In her home town, many people hire others to do tasks for them.

“I really like how Americans do their own things,” she said.

Emilie Devriese, 18, from Enghien, Belgium, said, “Coming here, I feel I have more confidence in myself. It’s been a wonderful experience, but I’m ready to go back. I’m missing my family so much, but it will be hard to leave.

“Next year, I’m coming back here with my parents to show them where I lived here.”

Isabella Santana, 17, hails from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She had difficulty with the language when she first got here, but rapidly improved.

“When I first came here, I was told I was coming to California, and I thought I was coming to beaches,” she said, laughing.

“I learned that Mexicans are pretty. And school is easier here than in Brazil. There, we just stay in one class all day and we copy from the board.”

All agreed that the close friendships they made here with each other, with teachers, with BHS Counselor Shari Rosenberg, with other students and with their host families have been the best experiences of all during their stay in Ridgecrest.

Rosenberg described this year’s group of exchange students as amazing kids. “They’re just joyous!”

She urged local families to consider becoming host families to foreign exchange students.

For more information on Cultural Homestay International, see www.chinet.org or www. linkedin.com, or call Dorothy Whitefield at 877-737-0409 or Alicia Collins at 760-793-6691.

Collins is the area representative for Cultural Homestay International.

Story First Published: 2013-05-29