Three of SCHS’s foreign exchange students gave interviews this week,
reminding us of why it’s important to expose ourselves to new cultures and
to try new things.
Sometimes, it is difficult to imagine cultures other than our own –
especially when our exposure to other countries is limited. “Before I came
here, I never tried Mexican food,” confesses Miriam Barilli, a senior from
Italy. “I don’t like it, but I’m glad I got to try it.”
A poll conducted in 2008 by Pew Research Center reveals that one in every
four Americans never or rarely leave the place that they are born – an
admirable sentiment to one’s hometown, certainly, but also a shame. By
visiting other places, we experience customs and concepts that we never
would have in our sheltered bubble of San Clemente.
For example, Laia Gabilondo, a sophomore from Spain, had to change her way
of greeting people when she first visited America. “Here, you hug when you
meet someone,” she explains. “In Europe, we usually kiss. I remember my
first week here, and my host family was like, “Ok, we’re huggers. We don’t
Miriam Barilli also experienced a new custom in her time here. “It is my
first time celebrating Halloween,” she admits. “Everyone is so excited
about this holiday – it’s funny to watch. But I had so much fun carving
pumpkins with my host family. I really recommend this experience to other
In addition to being a unique cultural experience, the exchange students I
interviewed attested that their time in America had taught them life
lessons. “I think it is a great experience,” says Niclas Puschmann, a
junior from Germany, “because you learn about yourself a bit, you learn
about life, and how everything works – the communication, and to be
friendly, and honest, and things like that. And you learn to be more
self-sufficient. To walk on your own feet, to go your own way. I think I’m
going to be different when I go home.”
I personally found the experience of interviewing these three people to be
a unique cultural experience. It was interesting to consider my country
from the point of view of a European exchange student, and to imagine what
it must be like to live in a foreign nation for several months.
Though each student was asked the same questions, their answers were
different and varied. However, they unanimously agreed that they would
recommend the exchange program to other students.
“It’s the best year of your life, it’s a great experience,” says Laia
Gabilondo. “You face many situations that you wouldn’t in your own country.
You don’t just learn English, you learn a lot about everything – about
life, about how to be independent…I would definitely recommend it.”