Foreign exchange students note cultural differences

Odi Opole, Web Editor

Senior Shemi Millet knows what she wants to say.
But she struggles to find the words.
She uses a variety of ways to get the point across: pictures, writing — anything to aid in the translation from French to English.
Millet, along with three other students from across the globe, call Blue Valley their host school this year.
Millet said conversations she could handle easily in French are challenging in English.
“When people talk all at the same time, it stresses me out,” she said. “It’s difficult to understand the teachers and what is happening in school.”
French teacher Carol Bar said Millet will improve her English with time.
“I know she struggles a bit because she just got here, but she’s here for a whole school year, so she should get much better,” she said.
Bar said Millet has adjusted well, and is a pleasure to have in her AP French 5 Class.
“I’m very pleased with how she integrated herself with other students,” Bar said. “She offers such wonderful commentaries in class about her culture. It’s nice because it exposes students to French culture from a first-hand source.”
Millet said there are a lot of differences between our school and schools in France.
“The university here is more like high school in France,” Millet said. “We must stay in class here; we don’t have the right to leave campus.”
Bar said having a connection to senior Anthony Orwick has helped Millet practice her English and gain confidence.
“I know her and Anthony like to speak French together, which is great practice for Anthony,” Bar said. “But I also encourage him to speak English to help her learn and practice.”
Millet said that lunch time is the most frustrating part of school here.
“I like the food, especially donuts,” Millet said. “[But] you don’t have the same manners when eating, especially [with only] 26 minutes to eat.”
Senior Hei Ma, from Hong Kong, said it can be frustrating, and it makes class harder.
“[English is frustrating] because everyone speaks English, and if you don’t know how, you feel upset with yourself,” he said. “Some classes like CA and history are hard. They have their own terms, and it’s hard to understand. It makes homework harder.”
Ma said so far making friends has been easy for him.
“The people here are friendly, and they’re always saying ‘Hi, how are you?’” Ma said.
Senior Andreina Thoma from Switzerland said she noticed many social differences.
“In Switzerland, school life and social life are mostly separated,” she said. “When you come home after 5 or 6 o’clock, you go to your sport, club, or orchestra which is organized by the town or village. That’s why I think the team spirit of schools here is bigger than of a school in Switzerland.”
Thoma said most of her friends’ ideas about American high schools turned out to be true.
“[We thought] America is big, there are a lot of fast food restaurants and there are cool high schools with football teams and cheerleaders,” she said. “When they see pictures on Facebook they are always like ‘Oh, it really looks like the American movies.’”
Millet said she also noticed a difference in the length of the school day.
“Finishing school at 2:50, I love that,” Millet said. “Usually we would have gotten out at 6 p.m.”