West Side Stories

International Students at West

Maddie Bishop, Student Reporter

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Getting on a plane, traveling out of the country you’ve grown up in your whole life, and coming to a new one to live with strangers for a year. It may sound like a difficult experience but this is what exchange students do every year coming into West. The exchange program here is an amazing experience for students to live in an entirely diverse culture but it can be hard to accommodate to living away from home for such a long time.

For the brief time they are here, the AFS program at a school that’s filled with students and faculty from West, helps to welcome them to their new life here in the U.S..

Wauwatosa West hosts 2 or 3 American Field Service or “AFS” students every year. Students are enrolled in classes, encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and live with a host family for a single semester or an entire school year. For the 2018-2019 school year, two of West’s exchange students are Umar Mohammed from Accra, Ghana and Pablo Llanso Pelaez from Barcelona, Spain.

“Fitting in and coming to a new place where you don’t know anyone is challenging because it’s like starting a whole new life and it can be tough,” says Umar Mohammed.

The exchange students arrive without knowing a single person. They are brought into a new home and live with strangers for almost a year. Coming to West, that has a large student body, that you don’t know seems to be the biggest struggle for exchange students at West.

“The hard part about adjusting to school here was finding the right friends,” said Pablo, sophomore exchange student at West.

Exchange students start their year having to find a new group of friends. Although that may be hard, they have the opportunities to join activities that they might not have have been able to be apart of at their school.

“I like how you have clubs and so many sports to choose from,” said Pablo.

The students have very different school experiences.

“School life is very different here because at home we have uniforms and we stay in the same class all day and we don’t move around,” said Umar.

Not only are the activities they participate different, but in school the classes are scheduled differently. Some that are mandatory here aren’t there, and vice versa.

“It is mandatory to be slightly fluent in English. Because my school is in the Catalonia province, it is also mandatory for us to learn Catalan,” said Pablo Llanso Pelaez, sophomore exchange student.

Coming to a foreign country is a very unique experience and Linda Carlson gives her insight about it and her past experiences.

“I’ve hosted nine exchange students. I started doing so because I was an exchange student myself when I was seventeen. I really enjoyed it, so I knew that once I got to a certain point in my life I would want to host so I could pass that same experience forward,” said Linda Carlson, host mom of Umar.

Because of the very different lives exchange students live back home, of course there are things that exchange students miss.

“I miss the good, warm mediterranean weather. I miss my dog. I miss my lifelong friends. I miss having a respectful person as a president. I miss having restaurants right next to my house and easy transportation,” said Pablo.

Even though the exchange students that come to Tosa West can come from backgrounds that are very different and unfamiliar to some students, there are a lot of things that students can find similarities in.

“The most fun thing is when you do something with them they have never experienced before. Numerous exchange students we’ve had never experienced snow before and to see their excitement is the best part,” said Carlson.

 

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