Tigers International

Foreign exchange students reflect on experience, share post-graduation plans

Ifrah Sayyada, Staff Writer

Blue Valley is one of many schools that hosts a foreign exchange program for students worldwide. This year, BV hosted three individuals who came from different parts of the world. These seniors discussed their experiences and plans after graduation.

Senior Anna Conradi, foreign exchange student from Austria, said she has had a pleasant experience in America, but the most memorable moment was in a Texas burger joint.

“When I arrived here for the first time, I ordered a small drink,” Conradi said. “I was convinced it was a large drink, so I went up to the counter and told them they gave me a bigger drink than I had ordered. It turned out it was a small drink — I just wasn’t used to the big sizes here.”

Conradi said she was surprised by the strictness of school.

“I didn’t think the dress code and the teachers would be so strict,” she said. “There is also a lot of rules, like you [can’t] leave the class before the bell rings.”

Even though Conradi said she liked her visit, she plans to study in Austria and maybe visit America in the future.

“I am currently planning to go to the University of Vienna to become an English and history teacher,” she said. “I would like to take a gap year to travel to Africa to do some work where help is needed.”

Conradi said this experience has given her more than just memories.

“I used to live with an Indian host family first semester, so I learned a lot about culture and about cultural differences here,” she said. “I also learned a lot about myself — I’m very independent.”

Before she arrived at Blue Valley, senior Anel Samekova, foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan, said she was in for a surprise.

She said she didn’t know what the people were going to be like, which astonished her.

“Everybody was just so open that people can talk to each other, even if you don’t know the person that well,” Samekova said.

She said she enjoyed her time at BV because of its friendly environment.

“I love Blue Valley a lot because it’s like a big, huge family who is always together and cares about each other,” she said.

Though Samekova loved BV and the people, she said one aspect of the American culture caused her concern.

“It’s just surprising how everyone just eats lots of food most of the time, such as junk food,” she said. “When my host mom asked me if I wanted cereal for breakfast, I just looked at her because [cereal] is just a snack for me.”

Even though Samekova said she enjoyed her stay, she is still going back home to see her family and study civil engineering at Nazarbayev University.

Samekova said she would miss her host family, her friends and her classmates the most.

“It’s a good experience,” she said. “It’s helped me to grow as a person and find new abilities in myself.”

The western side of the world has been quite fascinating, said senior Jamal Mughal, a foreign exchange student from Pakistan.

He said many things astounded him during his time in America.

“It was a completely different experience,” Mughal said. “There are day-to-day routines that might be different from the ones in Pakistan because it’s a different culture and religion. The only thing you know about America is when you watch movies, so to have a first-hand experience is really different.”

Mughal said he was shocked by an incident that took place during his visit to Washington, DC.

“Me and a couple other exchange students were exploring a neighborhood [when] one man stopped us and asked what we were doing,” he said. “We explained to him that we were foreign exchange students from Pakistan, and after hearing this, the guy proudly said, ‘Well, how does it feel to finally be free?’”

After graduation, Mughal said he plans to return to Pakistan and will attend college in either the United States or in Pakistan, pending his acceptance.

“I still haven’t decided on what college I want to go to, but I would like to pursue a career in medicine,” he said.

Mughal said this program facilitates learning about other cultures.

“I would recommend this to other people because it helps broaden your perspective of the world,” he said.