Foreigners in a foreign place

Lauren Wright ‘19

“Home is wherever my family and friends are. It’s a place where you feel comfortable and surrounded with love”, South Lyon High School junior Annabelle Beck said. When people think about home and what it means to them, many will respond with words like welcoming, joyful, peaceful, sacred, supportive, and cozy.

Every year at South Lyon High School, a group of students from all over the world leave their homes and join our community. They get to experience America and the differences between their culture and ours. They live with what is called a ‘host family.’

A host family should consist of at least one parent and one child under the age of eighteen, this family invites a young foreign person into their home for a specified period of time. This host family cares for the foreign exchange student by putting a roof over their head, providing for them or providing basic needs, and introducing them to what America is all about.

“Home is where there is my family and all of my friends. It’s the place where I can be completely myself,” Eleonora Saso, a foreign exchange student from Rome, Italy, said. Home is love. It’s a place where most people are familiar with their surroundings. Some people feel a sense of loss when they’re away from home.

All this information led me to question the brave exchange students what made them want to up and leave their homes for a year.

Emil Lindemann, a young man from Nurmijarvi, Finland expressed that he wanted to be an exchange student, “to meet new people, learn English better and experience new stuff.” With so many countries in the world to visit, it is interesting  to find that so many foreign exchange students flock to the U.S. Saso explained, “America is a completely different country. I wanted to know about a culture that is something very different from mine.”

For some other individuals, leaving home to go to another country for a long period of time doesn’t sound like such a comforting idea. It’s terrifying, like being an empty, dark room. “When I’m away from home I feel kind of vulnerable- almost like I have nobody to fall back on if something were to happen to me. I also like the comfort of my own bed and my own belongings because it’s something I know. New things are challenging for me, especially if I am in an unfamiliar place,” senior Emma Hall said.

Furthermore, junior Jay Petit agreed with Hall’s statement saying he would not consider being a foreign exchange student because he would not want to leave his home and supportive family for a long period of time at the young age of sixteen.

The foreign exchange students have had a mostly positive experience here in the U.S. Mana Murakami, a girl from Tokyo, Japan and Lindemann, the student from Finland, both agreed that America has been a fun, likeable experience for them. They both have met a lot of new people and have had many new experiences.

Saso, on the other hand, admitted that she’s run into a few problems with her host family and added, “It has not been the best experience, but it has helped me become mature, independent and better at facing my problems. It’s difficult to fit in here and get used to the very different environment.” Moreover, she claimed she misses her family, friends, and the food in her hometown.

Most people in this small town really haven’t been far from home for as long as these foreign exchange students have been. Getting to know their perspective on the whole experience of travelling across the world at such a young age and being away from what they call home for so long is a cool, different perspective to learn.

For many, home comforts you like a tight hug with a loved one. It’s where you learn everything you come to know in life, it’s where you find yourself. Leaving home is a gigantic step that brave foreign exchange students take in order to gain experience and discover more about themselves. After gaining knowledge about what it’s like to be an exchange student, do you think you could take the courageous opportunity?

Photo courtesy of Inside Higher Ed

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