Connecting Cultures: Foreign exchange students share customs, compare lifestyles

Rachel Cannon, Staff Writer

Osama Al-Haiki, Yemen
Host: Norma Latini
Question: What is the biggest difference between the clothing here and where are you from?
Answer: In the schools, we have school uniforms. We usually wear the same thing — we wear the blue shirts and jeans. And here it’s different — anybody wears what [he or she] wants.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat here?
A: Here [there are] so many different things. I think Kansas is famous for the steak, and I love this. My host family always [has] steak.
Q: At home?
A: The main dish is always rice, but we have minor dishes, too. And the main course is lunch, not dinner as here. So, [for] dinner, we just have a small snack or sandwich — it’s like a breakfast here.
Q: Biggest difference overall?
A: It’s totally different. I mean, life is very different. People are different. [The] school system is different. Like, for schools back home, we sit in one class, and teachers come around — we don’t leave the class. We study with the same group the whole year. Here, we move from class to class, and in each class we have different people. Family’s traditions [are] different. Everything is different.
Q: Favorite thing here?
A: Weekends. I enjoy weekends because we do lots of activities here on weekends. Back home, every day is a weekend. I mean, after school we can do whatever we want, but here we usually stay late for school. Then we have sports to do, so [the schedule is] totally different.
Q: At home?
A: My favorite thing is, of course, my family and friends.
Q: Stereotypes of people here?
A: They told me that people [might not be very friendly] or that they won’t accept people from other countries or from other religions. I heard so many stories that I was like, “Oh, I’m going to come here and face so many problems,” but when I came here, it’s totally different. It’s all the opposite. People are friendly. Everything is good. Teachers, schools, everyone is great.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about being in the States for a year?
A: I’m excited to let people know about my country more, get to know America, present Yemen in the right way, improve my English, [and] make new friends.
Q: What’s your favorite activity here and at home?
A: I play soccer here, and I play soccer at home. The thing I like here is football because we don’t have football there. So, it’s really interesting, and I love to watch it.

Alessandro Pastore, Italy
Host Family: Klehn family
*Bailey Klehn is a sophomore at Blue Valley.
Q: Biggest difference?
A: The biggest difference that I notice between Italy and America is the school. The school program is very different because in Italy, we can’t choose our subjects. I think also the atmosphere here is very different. The teacher helps you with your studies and with your qualities. In Italy, the atmosphere is [that] they expect [a lot of] you, but they don’t help you very much.
Q: What is your favorite food here?
A: My house mom cooked me eggs Benedict. It’s like bacon and eggs. I’m liking all the food that is here. It’s very different from Italy, but it’s good.
Q: At home?
A: It is called lasagna. I like my grandmother’s one because she is a good cook, and she made it very well.
Q: What stereotypes do you think there are about the United States?
A: There are a lot of stereotypes. We have the stereotype [that] in the school there are the cool guy and the girlfriend is like the cool cheerleader, but it’s not like this.
Q: About Italy?
A: I have talked with my house dad about this, and he told me that we [Italians] use [our] hands to talk and that we talk loud. Yeah, we eat a lot of food — also, the spaghetti.
Q: Differences in sports?
A: The big difference is the football, for Italy it’s like soccer is your football. And we have a big deal with soccer. We don’t have football. Also the school offers these kinds of sports because you have tennis fields, football fields.
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
A: Now, I’m excited for Homecoming cause it’s my first time I have ever gone to a party, and we don’t have [these parties] in Italy [that are] organized by the school. And, I can try to speak well, better at least, [so] I can communicate with people better.
Q: What do you miss most?
A: My friends, and [that] we can walk from [one] place to another because here it’s like so big and so spread out. But I’m enjoying myself here — it’s so cool.

Yasmin Wilnis, the Netherlands
Host Family: Jewell family
*Kristina Jewell is a junior at BV.
Q: Biggest difference in clothing?
A: Everyone dresses really athletic here, whereas if I just came in, like, sweat pants or just normal athletic shorts [at home] they’d just be like, “What are you wearing?” So, everyone is like really athletic, which I like cause it’s really, like, just easy and really relaxing.
Q: Favorite food from the U.S.?
A: Oh my gosh. Well, I really like the barbecue here — I don’t know if it’s just Kansas or just U.S. — but it’s really, really good. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings Friday for the first time, and it was absolutely amazing. So, that was really good. I’ve really been enjoying Chipotle.
Q: Favorite thing about living here so far?
A: Probably the school spirit. The school is one big family. And all the activities — cross country and stuff — I’ve really enjoyed that. And the games — football games — [have] been really good.
Q: Favorite thing at home?
A: I used to dance back home, and I’m really missing that — my theater and stuff like that.
Q: Most annoying thing about living here so far?
A: That you have to drive everywhere. You guys don’t have subways or buses. I’m from a big city, and that’s what I’m used to. So probably that everything’s kind of spread out.
Q: Least favorite thing about where you’re from?
A: I think everything here is a lot better to be honest. Just everything. Just the whole idea of the American Dream and stuff like that. That everything is possible. So I think that’s pretty amazing.
Q: Stereotypes about here?
A: There are a few stereotypes. Obviously you have the cheerleaders, [but] they’ve been really nice. The football players who are, like, the jocks. They’ve been very, very nice as well.
Q: Stereotypes about where you’re from?
A: Yes. People think we walk in those clogs — wooden clogs. Um, we do not walk in wooden clogs. And everyone thinks we take drugs and stuff because its legal — weed is legal. No, we do not all smoke weed. We do not get drunk every single night (because, obviously, the drinking age is 16).
Q: What are you looking forward to the most?
A: Just this whole school year. I’m really looking forward to the dances — homecoming and prom — and all the big school events, even the games.
Q: What do you miss the most?
A: I really miss my family and my friends. But I speak to them quite often — thank God for Skype and Facebook.

Michael Wegner, Germany
Host Family: Boten family
*Quinton Boten is a sophomore at BVHS
Q: Is there a difference between the clothing here and the clothing in Germany?
A: No. Not at all.
Q: What is your favorite food you’ve had in the U.S.?
A: Burrito.
Q: What is the biggest difference between this school and your school at home?
A: The high school spirit. You have a lot of spirit here and much more homework.
Q: Difference in technology?
A: No. I think it’s the same.
Q: Did anything shock you when you came here?
A: Peanut butter. You do peanut butter on celery. That’s really shocking.
Q: What is the difference in the weather?
A: It’s better. It’s more extreme — it’s hotter, and it’s colder.
Q: What stereotypes did you have of Americans before you came here?
A: That they are fat [laughs].
Q: What stereotypes do you think we have of people in Germany?
A: They are drinking a lot.
Q: What are you most excited about for your year here?
A: Homecoming now, prom, and these things. And the basketball games cause you have basketball games at school. It will be very nice.
Q: What do you miss most about Germany?
A: My family, and [being able] to drive. The organization [doesn’t allow] me to drive.

Mustofa Tamal Lubis, Indonesia
Host: Norma Latini
Q: Biggest difference?
A: The culture is very different between my country and this country. In my country, it’s very hard to go to school. We must have respect [for the teacher]. Here, it’s different because we are [like friends] with the teachers. In my country, there’s so many rules about [manners].
Q: Favorite thing to eat at home?
A: We call it rendang. It’s like meat — but very spicy meat.
Q: Here?
I [really like] pasta. In my country we have pasta, but [here] I think it’s different because [there are] so many kinds.
Q: Stereotypes about the United States?
A: Before I [came] here my stereotypes [about the] U.S.A. [were] tall people, long hair, and everyday they eat bread because everyday in my country we eat rice. And the stereotype of the U.S. is freedom.
Q: Stereotypes about where you are from?
A: I think [the] stereotype about my country is [that we are] kind, like [to talk], like to make a friend.
Q: What do you miss from Indonesia?
A: The thing that makes me miss my home is my family. I miss the ‘crowded’ because in my country, when we are gathered together, they’re so crowded. They’re so fun.
Q: What do you like about the States?
A: I [really] like the freedom. We can [say] what we want. We can [say] our opinion here.