By Ellenina Iacobucci
In the past years, Sandy Springs has been the home to hundreds of foreign exchange students. This year three students have come to North Springs High School from overseas. These students had to do lots of research before becoming a foreign exchange student. Since the programs are not through their school they must wait and find the perfect agency to accommodate their personal needs and to reach their goals.
One of the students who came to North Springs is named Synne. Synne is a senior at NSHS from Gjøvik, Norway. Since she was in tenth grade she knew she wanted to come to America to study.
As a foreign exchange student, very little choice throughout the process is left up to them. She wasn’t able to choose what state or city she wanted to travel to through the program she decided to use.
The first choice that she made was what organization she wanted to travel with and she had to apply for acceptance, which is a long process. This process included many dentist and doctor visits, lots of “about me” essays and lots of patience. “I wrote 800 words or something about my interests, and what I like to do on a typical day, a typical week,” remarked Synne.
Synne noticed major differences in day-to-day life at North Springs. “Everything is much busier here. Like in Norway we have a lot of free periods, like I think I had one free period each day and sometimes more actually.” They also have different options for help in Norway. “We also have counseling classes twice a week where you can, like, go to a classroom and get help for the subject you need.”
She invested in a new phone when she arrived in the United States.“I have a Norwegian phone and one for here.” she laughed.
Before coming here to Sandy Springs, she was able to visit New York with other people that were involved in her foreign studies agency. She was able to make a lot of friends from other countries like Sweden while in New York and they shared the same experiences as they traveled away from home. “I traveled here to Atlanta on the second of August,” only giving her a week to settle in before starting school.
Erika and Zoli are two more foreign exchange students who walk the halls of NSHS. They both come from Slovakia, so they became friends quickly because of their common language. Though separately, they went through many of the same experiences when becoming a foreign exchange student.
Before Erika went through the process of becoming a foreign exchange student, she was so excited to come to America. “It’s so good to know [about] other places and countries and people from [those] countries and their life.”
Erika, much like Synne wasn’t given much choice throughout the process. “We had to do so many tests and lots of stuff to tell them about [ourselves]. Just so many essays and writing [things] about me. We don’t pick [the] family, the family picks us.”
The best advice Erika has for others thinking about becoming foreign exchange students: “You must wait. You have to wait for your family and everything.”
Erika noticed, so far as a student at NSHS, that teachers are very friendly here. “[In Slovakia] our teachers are so strict. Everything is different; school is so different. Everyone is friendly here. In Slovakia we don’t have it like this.
Even her schedule was different back home. “There I take like 15 classes, like I have to take everything. There I go to bilingual school so I had history, biology, physics [for example] in Slovak and in English too, so I had 15 subjects and here I have 7.”
Another plus about NSHS for Erika is that we get to pick a lot of the classes we take. “We couldn’t decide what class we want. We must get the same as everyone [else]. We don’t get a choice and when we get our schedule there are no dance and arts or gym [classes]. We only take like math and science and everything like that.”
As a dancer, Erika really appreciated the choice she had with her schedule because her schedule is so packed in Slovakia. “I dance contemporary, modern, jazz and ballet. I miss my dance company!”
School spirit is the biggest difference that she noticed. “Theme days and school spirit is nothing in Slovakia. No mascots. We don’t even know what it’s about. Homecoming, prom and everything, it’s new for us. At the end of the year we have a graduation party, but its absolutely different.”
All in all Erika prefers school here and will maybe come back to school here for college. Erika says “We will see.”