17 Foreign Exchange Students Discovering America in Herriman, Providence HallFeb 03, 2020 12:24PM ● By Jet Burnham
International students attend Providence Hall High School for an immersive American experience. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Belonging to an international baccalaureate curriculum school, Providence Hall High School students and teachers value learning from foreign exchange students. This year, 17 students from Spain, Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Sweden are enrolled to improve their English skills and to experience American culture.
“The foreign exchange program truly enriches not only the foreign exchange students but all students here at our school,” said Principal Nathan Marshall. “It helps students think more globally.”
Marshall said the faculty works with these students and families to select classes based on their interests. Some have taken web design and orchestra classes, while others have joined the cheerleading squad or cross country team.
Junior Chih-Chi Chen said she was shocked that she got to choose which classes to take. She was also surprised that the school day was so short. (In Taiwan it runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
The students all said American food is very different (not always in a complimentary way) than what they are used to. They also all share the opinion that American schools are less rigorous and American teachers are nicer.
The exchange students go on group activities together—they are observing a legislative session this month—and become close friends through their shared experience. Alessio Scafuro, from Italy, said it was harder to make friends with American students when he was still adjusting from culture shock.
“It's part of the experience to push yourself and really get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “I've learned not to be scared and not to judge people based on our cultural differences. Different doesn't mean wrong; it's just different.”
Alessio and fellow exchange student Miguel Jimenez have also learned about another culture from their host mom who is from Portugal. One student from Spain said her host mom’s Venezuelan recipes are similar enough to Spanish dishes to be comforting.
Exchange students stay for the entire school year and become like a member of the family, helping with family chores and even going on trips with their host families.
Estilitha Wilson said her two daughters are getting along better since their family began hosting an exchange student.
“Before, I have my two girls in the bathroom fighting constantly for the space,” she said. “Now I have three girls in the bathroom, and everybody's laughing.”
She said when she initially decided to host a student, she didn’t realize how great of an experience it would turn out to be. The Francis family had the same experience. They began hosting for short day or week placements. Then they committed to six weeks of hosting a student, which turned into five months.
“We fell in love with her because it was so great to have her around and have her in our home,” America Francis said. “Everybody bonded to her in different ways.”
Kris Denison, international coordinator at Aspect Foundation, an international student exchange program, said family members and students form lasting bonds. Many wish they could extend their stay. but the terms of the students’ visas require them to go home once the school year ends.
Francis said her family will host a student again because it helps her children feel connected to the wider world.
“It just helps everyone feel like we're all similar,” she said. “We can all care about each other, we can help each other when things are hard if we just see people as people instead of labeling them. They may think differently than we do, but we all want peace. We want success. We want happiness. We want love.”
For anyone interested in learning more about hosting a foreign exchange student or sending their teenager to study abroad, there will be informational open houses held at the Herriman Library Jan. 29 (7–7:45 p.m.), Feb. 4 (7–7:45 p.m.), and March 3 (7:15–8 p.m.).