The article below appeared on October 15, 2008 into one of the best newspapers from Maine, USA. The name of newspaper is Sun Journal and I copied the article here. The original article can be found here.
Exchanging students, ideas
By Eileen M. Adams , Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Zhongling Cao is a bit surprised that she has to attend classes only five days a week.
In her native China, it's six long days each week.
Peter Krause-Kjaer misses the wide-open fields of his native Denmark, but he likes playing soccer with students at Mountain Valley High School.
Cao and Krause-Kjaer are two of seven foreign exchange students spending the year learning about American culture. It's the largest number of foreign students to take part in an exchange program at the Rumford school.
"It was the luck of the draw," Principal Matt Gilbert said. "There were enough families requesting foreign exchange students."
And for that, he is grateful.
"They contribute so much to the school's climate. It's so wonderful for Mountain Valley students to interact with students from other countries," Gilbert said.
Several students represent new countries at Mountain Valley, including Valeriu Gonta of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, David Vojtovic of the Czech Republic, and Peerapoom Sang Poom Pong of Thailand. The other two exchange students are Rafael Andonini of Brazil and Alexander Szeps from Sweden.
On Tuesday, they were seated around the high school's conference table eating pizza and preparing to make presentations to Mountain Valley students at a schoolwide assembly on Wednesday.
Peerapoom has found the students and people of the area helpful and friendly. This is his first time in America. Once he finishes high school, he hopes to attend a university to study business and culinary arts in England or the United States.
"There are Americans all over the world, American business owners," he said.
Like the other foreign exchange students, he attends school at home for more hours than students do in the United States. His school day runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Thailand.
The foreign students, all 16 or 17 years old and in their last year of high school, were surprised to learn that the price of gas here is a fraction of what it is in their home countries. They also were surprised to find so many open spaces. Most thought the United States was pretty crowded and urban.
They also were surprised to learn that people with disabilities attend classes with other students. In the visiting students' countries, most people with disabilities attend special schools.
Valeriu, who wants to be a journalist, said part of the requirement from his home country for attending school in the United States includes devising a social program when he gets home. The American attitude toward students with disabilities may be his project.
The foreign students say they are quite amazed at the presidential election.
"It's too long," Krause-Kjaer said.
"In Sweden, the focus is on policies rather than on the person," Alexander said.
Also, in most of the students' home countries, voters have a chance to choose from five or more major parties, rather than from two.
Although the students have been integrating themselves into their classes, sports teams and clubs, the official introductions take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Gilbert said all will go through graduation with their Mountain Valley High School classmates in June and receive honorary diplomas from the school. They will then return home to complete their final year of high school.
He said he'd like to see his school, as well as any other high school, take a greater part in a foreign exchange student program.
"It broadens perspectives," he said.