Starr’s Mill welcomes exchange students with open arms

Three+foreign+exchange+students+enjoy+their+last+few+weeks+at+Starr%E2%80%99s+Mill+and+proudly+display+up+flags+from+their+native+country.+These+students+arrived+last+summer+to+immerse+themselves+in+American+high+school+culture.

Daniella Vivas

Three foreign exchange students enjoy their last few weeks at Starr’s Mill and proudly display up flags from their native country. These students arrived last summer to immerse themselves in American high school culture.

Daniella Vivas, Staff writer

“There is this typical American picture in everybody’s head in Europe, it’s a mixture of high school musical and every other Disney movie,” sophomore German exchange student Franzi Koch said, “but sadly nobody sings in the cafeteria.”

Despite the realities of American high school, Koch said she still has the desire to gain greater insight on the language and customs.

“It was a really spontaneous idea,” Koch said of coming to America last summer. She wanted an opportunity to distance herself from school in Germany because she said “it’s so boring.”

After starting at Starr’s Mill, Koch noticed the rigid guidelines of the school system. “We don’t have dress code in Germany,” Koch said. “School is just school and nothing more than that, but here, the schools regulate everything.”

When placing exchange students with their host families, guidance secretary and foreign exchange student regional coordinator Marcie Comeau always tries “to find really good host families who will take the students into their home and treat them like their own children,” Comeau said.

There is this typical American picture in everybody’s head in Europe, it’s a mixture of high school musical and every other Disney movie.”

— Sophomore Franzi Koch

The students find this to be really important because “everything is different here, not just the language,” Koch said.

This year, Comeau and her husband Robert, placed 11 foreign exchange students in Fayette and Coweta County high schools. McIntosh, Sandy Creek, Newnan, Northgate and Covington all host foreign exchange students.

Some of these students coming to the U.S. received this opportunity because of scholarship options. According to Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study, the program allows secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend one school year in the United States.

Although dropping a whole year to come study in America does not grant them school credit, “we kind of get credit by being able to put this trip on our resume,” Koch said.

Senior Mia Sille from Denmark decided to experience America after graduating high school and is currently spending her gap year in Peachtree City with the Kloch family.

She decided she wanted to do something other than going into her next educational pathway, and since she loves “to travel and explore,” she thought this would be an amazing experience for her to completely emerge herself in the culture.

“I have gotten a much bigger insight on what it means to be America, especially the youth,” Sille said.

Italian exchange student senior Francesca Morari has also experienced her fair share of Americanism throughout her stay the Woodlock family. Morari made the trip in hopes to “discover other life styles, traditions and cultures to help keep an open mind.”

This being her first trip to America, Morari got an up close and personal look at what it’s like to be a true American. “The only fast-food restaurant I knew in Italy was McDonald’s, and when I got here, it was like discovering a new world,” Morari said.

An alternate option to staying the whole year is the three-week exchange program. Here, German students have the opportunity to experience America in a small dose by staying three weeks with a host family, and the American host student goes to Germany for three weeks during the summer.

Freshman Tess Rangoonwala, a three-week foreign exchange student from Germany, along with Morari, noticed how excessively large everything in America is advertized. “Everything in America is so big,” Rangoonwala said. “The cups are huge!”

Constantly surprised with the characteristics of American culture, Rangoonwala along with other three-week foreign exchange students Leo Spieler, Katarina Lucic, Jasmin Flieger, Barbara Erdmann, Vincent Blum, Lia Weigand, Jule Langolf, Clara Wickerath and Isabel Trott decided to make the most of their three short weeks in America.

Whether spending only three weeks or the whole year in an American school, Comeau believes that “the whole premise of introducing world heritage is about bridging gaps through student exchange.”