NORTH CRAWFORD - Not everyone is fortunate enough to go to high school in a different country. It’s an idea that becomes a reality for some however, and this year North Crawford was host school to eight young people from other countries who learned about our culture and much more here in our cozy neck of the woods.
This year’s group of exchange students included Marco Massimelli of Italy; Christian Vinicio Pinzon of Ecuador; Moritz Mark Reichelt of Germany; Nagore Bermeosolo from the Basque Region of Spain; Sara Martínez Correa of Spain; Lucia Larrañaga from the Basque Region of Spain; Supassara Supoparkh of Thailand; and Pompam Araya Kornwong also of Thailand.
The students were given the opportunity to answer questions about their experience, and to share with us a bit of what they observed and learned in America.
Marco Massimelli is from Genova, Liguria, Italy, and studied this year as a senior. He wanted a new start and an experience that could make him more independent. Being an exchange student permitted him to see a new part of the world and to allow him to improve his English and accent for future job possibilities.
Marco reports that he comes from a big city, and had to adapt to life in a rural area when he arrived. He became involved in sports and theatre this past year, and believes his school in Italy was more boring and without activities such as sports, extra activities, the plays and field trips.
“School in Italy is much harder than here,” Massimelli said. “The relationships between students and teachers are not as good, but similar in that all the students have good relationships with each other.”
When Marco arrived at North Crawford High School, he found that every person was friendly and kind, and they helped him with the language, new sports and at school.
He found that mentalities and ways of life here are very different but also that as teenagers they have a lot of things in common, such as dreams, hopes and experiences. He felt that the American culture concentrates on nationalism, and he thought that was a very good thing.
When Marco returns home he will have advice for any future exchange students. “I will let them know that it will not be easy at the beginning but will be worth it,” Massimelli observed. “They will go through obstacles, but they will learn to enjoy how to live in a new country, and with other people, and the language.”
Massimelli says he will tell them to enjoy every moment, because the time will go fast.
Marco’s favorite memories of attending North Crawford are participating in the play, and in sports. Being a part of a team and staying all together working for a purpose, no matter what, was great support for him and helped make school fun.
After graduation in Italy, Massimelli plans to go to Rome at a Cinema University. During that time he hopes to complete a semester in America, and aspires to become an actor, working in movies and in TV series.
Massimelli would like to thank everyone for accepting him as one of them, and for all their help.
“It was a nice year,” Massimelli said. “I learned a lot, and have met some people that I will miss very much.”
Christian Vinicio Pinzon
Christian Vinicio Pinzon Reyes is from Loja, Ecuador, where he is a junior and a senior at the same time.
“I decided to participate in the exchange student program because I was looking for a change in my life, and wanted to try something different, something out of my comfort zone,” Pinzon said. “My brother and sister were a part of a similar program and have talked about the great experience.”
Pinzon feels that he will use this experience of American culture and language in his future career, and for the rest of his life.
While at North Crawford High School, Pinzon was on the football team, which was a new experience for him, as was the cold weather. Where he is from it doesn’t get any colder than about 65 degrees. Also new to Pinzon was the use of fancy camouflage clothes, noting that many people love hunting and fishing.
“School was fun,” Pinzon said. “In my country, school is very strict and they only study, study, study.”
Pinzon observed that in Ecuador, the teachers and students are tired, and they don’t get to use computers, but instead write many papers. He found that this school and his school in Ecuador are similar because there are sports, but the schools are very different too.
“Where I am from, we wear uniforms, and the teachers come to the students who remain in the same classroom throughout the school year,” Pinzon said. “Students are not given the choice of classes to take, but are given a schedule which includes all the subjects, the difficulty increasing each year.”
When Pinzon returns to Ecuador, he will tell his fellow students that he learned how to hunt, and how to survive winter at -30 degrees. He will share how the family spent hours watching movies, and that he had to ask for a ride to go everywhere. He reports that he was surprised to see how people go to work when it’s very cold outside, and go ice fishing.
Christian will leave America right after prom, so that he can take a test for college early in May. He will also work with his Dad at their family business, selling cars, which he loves.
“After I graduate, I will go to college in Ecuador,” Pinzon said. “I would advise everyone that if you have the opportunity to go to another country, do it and get out of your comfort zone.”
Moritz Mark Reichelt
Moritz Mark Reichelt is from Berlin, Germany. He is a junior. Since he was eight years old, he wanted to spend one year abroad in the United States.
His brother and sister also had this experience, and encouraged him.
While at North Crawford High School Reichelt reports that he made many friends.
“My friends made my time as an exchange student a hundred times better,” Reichelt said. “I learned a lot from them, and also learned a lot of new words in Spanish and Italian, different habits from other countries, and about traditional foods.”
In Germany there are no school buses, and their school day goes from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. with three breaks totaling one hour during the day. There is a schoolyard in the middle of the school where they go to take their break, regardless of the weather.
In his school in Germany there are no school sports. “If we want to be in sports, we have to be in a club, which is very expensive and requires a long bus ride away from home,” Reichelt explained. “In my school in Berlin, students have a lot of respect for the teachers who are the highest authority, and the students do as the teachers tell them to do.”
The schools in Germany seem a lot harder to Moritz. He said what they are learning in 12th grade here is what they are learning in 10th grade there, and that the classmates in Germany are a lot more mature than the students here.
There were many highlights for Moritz during his time in North Crawford School, such as being on the basketball team.
“Basketball has always been a huge part of my life,” Reichelt explained. “Here I learned a lot, and improved my game.”
Reichelt was also a part of the musical play, where he noticed there were some kids who were usually quiet, but were comfortable and did well on stage. “They were all part of a big family by the end of the production,” Reichelt observed.
When he returns home, Reichelt will tell about how much he enjoyed his stay here, about how much easier school was here, and how much fun it was too. Reichelt already plans to return after he graduates in Germany to visit North Crawford.
Nagore Bermeosolo is from the Basque Region of Spain. She is a junior.
“I wanted to participate in the exchange student program because I thought the experience would be very interesting, and would help me grow as a person,” Bermeosolo explained. “I hoped it would help me learn more about another language and culture, and to be more independent and mature.”
Bermeosolo highlighted her time spent on multiple road trips, on the cross country and track team, in choir and band, and her lead role in the play which she never thought she would be able to do.
“I learned many things about different religions that I didn’t know before,” Bermeosolo said. “All of those things were very exciting and fun for me.”
While at North Crawford High School, Bermeosolo found that the way people interact here is very different than in her homeland. “Students here enjoy teamwork, and help a lot in the community by doing volunteer work,” Bermeosolo observed.
According to Bermeosolo, her school in Spain differs somewhat from North Crawford, especially the way testing is done.
“In my school at home, they test using memorizing and writing papers,” Bermeosolo said. “Here the testing is more practical.”
She was greatly impressed with the amount of voluntary work the people here do, and how involved people are with sports and the playhouse even though North Crawford is not a huge school.
“The time I spent with my host family and friends will be my favorite memories,” Bermeosolo said. “I felt like a part of the family the very first day I spent with them, and I won’t be able to thank them for everything they have done for me.”
When Bermeosolo returns to Spain, she will finish high school and then go on to college the following year.
Sara Martínez Correa
Sara Martínez Correa is from Madrid, Spain and she is a junior.
“My parents were always talking about their dream of going to a different country,” Correa shared. “As I got older, I started researching the idea of being a foreign exchange student, and was ready when the opportunity became available.”
Correa reports that she loved the idea of the sports, studies, people and new cultures to help her mature.
During her year at North Crawford High School, Correa found that she really liked the teachers.
“They were very helpful,” Correa said. “I enjoyed that there were a lot of activities inside the school, and that it wasn’t just studying.”
Correa reports she learned a lot about American education and about American history in her classes. She found that there are very few, if any similarities between students here and in her home, and that most of the students here work and drive, and dress differently too.
“Even after being here nine months, I see differences each day,” Correa reported. “Like the other foreign exchange students, I was surprised and pleased that there are sports in school.”
Correa also commented on the weather, and how very cold it is here. She was surprised that she could complete her school work at school, and didn’t need to study or do homework in the afternoons.
“My host family lives in ‘the middle of nowhere,’ Correa observed. “At home, I live in the middle of the city.”
Correa said she will have good memories of her friends, sports and trips, and will remember that the people here were helpful, patient and polite.
After graduation, Correa will study something related to marketing and tourism in Spain.
“Having been an exchange student will help me mature and grow as a person,” Correa said. “I thank the U.S. for this opportunity.”
Lucia Larrañaga from Basque Region of Spain is a junior.
“The high-school exchange program is a unique experience that you just get to live once,” Larranaga said. “I wanted to experience the American lifestyle, and to find a second home. I needed to do this, and would be regretting it right now if I hadn’t come.”
Larranaga’s highlights of high school at North Crawford are friends, sports and being involved in the musical and play.
“My friends are like family,” Larranaga said. “I was impressed with Trojan spirit, and that people were very involved in school activities. Everyone supports everyone.”
Larranaga reports that her exchange student experience has helped her improve her English, and grow a lot as a person.
“I feel open-minded, stronger than ever, less shy and ready to face any type of situation,” Larranaga said. “Much is similar between the school here and my school in Spain - the teachers are helpful, the students like using computers and do not like doing homework.”
Larranaga reports that in Spain the students are not able to choose the subjects they are going to be taking. “At school in Spain, the focus is more on big exams while here classwork and homework is in some cases more important.”
She also noticed that North Crawford students are more creative, but students in Spain have a bigger capacity to concentrate on tasks that take a longer time.
“I plan to tell students at home that the experience was scary at first, but worth the risk,” Larranaga said. “ I will tell them that I was constantly learning new things, and that time went by really fast.”
Larranaga reports that she was surprised to learn the understanding of the phrase “friends are the family we choose,” and how important it is to have good friends near you.
She was a part of the North Crawford Playhouse this year. “It was an amazing experience, and that I never imagined being a part of an activity like that. Being a part of sports will also be a favorite memory because it is so important here, that people are very involved in sports and also because we don’t have school sports at home.”
Larranaga is very grateful to her host family, who were “always available to take me places as there is no public transportation.” At home, Larranaga is used to the availability of public transportation in the city where she lives.
After graduation, Larranaga intends to go to college and get a university degree, probably in English. She is considering studying LEINN (Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation).
“I plan to travel all around the world,” Larranaga said, “and keep in touch with all the people that I met here.”
Supassara Supoparkh is known as ‘Will.’ She comes from Thailand, where she is a senior, but has studied at North Crawford as a junior.
“My initial idea of why I wanted to be an exchange student was to improve my English,” Supoparkh said. “But I found that my experience was also that of weather, school life and American food. Culver’s burger is the best!”
Supoparkh participated in the play this year, and feels it was a highlight of her time here.
Some similarities and differences were noted as well. “I am used to eating rice at each meal, which is common in her home in Thailand, but not here,” Supoparkh observed. “While my school in Thailand is also K-12, I come from an all-girl school.”
There are about 48 students in her high school class, and they all wear uniforms and have to wear a specific hairstyle and length of hair. Supoparkh reports that her school in Thailand is much more strict than school here at North Crawford.
“I am surprised that your sunset here is not until after 7 p.m., and daylight savings time is a culture shock to me,” Supoparkh shared.
Supoparkh’s favorite memories will be homecoming week, and her participation in the plays.
“When I return home, I will tell students in my country that I can happily live here, that I had a lot of good times, and that I got to try something new,” Supoparkh said.
Supoparkh will fly back to Thailand on June 3, so she can participate in the teacher day in her school. She will study her senior year, and then continue to attend college in Thailand.
“After I earn a bachelor degree, I would like to study in America or other countries,” Supoparkh said. “Ten months are shorter than you think, and I want to thank everyone for making my year as great and amazing as it could have been. And a little lesson for us all…ha ha ha (means 555 in Thai).”
Pompam Araya Kornwong
Pompam Araya Kornwong comes from Pathumthani, Thailand. She is in her junior year.
“I liked the idea of being challenged as an exchange student, and knew I would meet people that I didn’t know,” Kornwong said of her decision to become an exchange student. “Now we have become like family.”
Kornwong reports she found it challenging to know that she would be using a language that is not her first language, and felt that would develop her own language too.
“There are many less people here,” Kornwong said. “This is a big difference between my home in Thailand and here in Crawford County. I feel like I know all the people in North Crawford, and am very surprised at how small it is here.”
Kornwong said she also very much enjoyed having sports here, and said that the sports competition was a good thing to have. Pompam felt that the way every teacher taught was very new for her. She found similarities in her school here and her school in Thailand, such as students who are very smart and other students who don’t like to study.
“When I return home, I will tell my fellow students about the sports here at school, which is very exciting,” Kornwong said. “I will also tell them about life in school, and how we get to do fun things in school too like sports and making relationships with friends.”
Kornwong says she will always remember homecoming, and playing sports as her favorite memories from her time at North Crawford High School.
After she graduates next year, Pompam will go to college in Thailand to study computer engineering.
“I feel I have changed a lot this year,” Kornwong said. “I had a lot of fun and some things were stressful, but that has helped me to grow too. I feel very good about this small school known as North Crawford.”