Broadening horizons, making new connections
Nagasawa visits from Japan
As world wide connections continue to expand, so do the opportunities to travel and learn of cultures around the globe. This year, West sports foreign exchange students from Chile, Finland, Vietnam, and now, Japan. Mai Nagasawa arrived in August to begin her journey through a new educational and societal structure. The differences between school systems can be about the big ideas, like opportunities and quality of education, but Nagasawa sees more value in the little things, like snacking policies.
“At my school, we can’t eat snacks in class,” she said.
American students are accustomed to leisurely snacking during class that other countries’ students consider a privilege. The snacking is not the only positive attribute to West. Nagasawa speaks positively of her experience so far. She soon was open to the newfound possibilities and alternate learning styles Wildcat country offers.
“In my music class, all we do is sing. I am surprised this school has a wind ensemble class; I play the clarinet so it is very interesting for me,” Nagasawa said.
Nagasawa dug deeper into her interests because of the large variety of classes West offers in art, music, language, and core departments. The diversity during the school day is overwhelming for Nagasawa, but so too is the abundance of extracurricular activities. To get involved, Nagasawa joined the girls tennis team this fall.
“I had never tried sports before; we don’t really have them at my school in Japan, so it was really exciting,” she said.
She is eager to share all of her new experiences and memories with her family back home, but she is staying focused on her life here, trying to take advantage of the opportunities.
“If I text my friends in Japan, I think I’ll become homesick so I don’t want to keep in touch.”
She has the opportunity to experience the excitement of trying something new outside of school, but also a chance to see life away from home surrounded by new people. She was welcomed by her classmates, making her feel more at home.
“People in America are very kind to me,” Nagasawa said. “My new friends in this school invite me to different activities such as homecoming, so I will tell my parents all about that.”
Gia ventures from Vietnam to US
A 15- minute car ride compared to a 34 hour plane flight makes West feel very close to home. In the summer of 2016, Linh Nguyen Gia flew in from a foreign land, stretched out her legs, and stepped into the U.S. Gia traveled all this way to be a student at West and experience the American school system. For CIEE exchange student, jumping into an alternate lifestyle requires some painful and tedious adjustment.
“I have been here for almost three months; the first two months were nothing special, just adapting to the new environment,” Gia said.
After settling in and getting used to her new family, house, and country, Gia has been able to enjoy her everyday life in America. Foreign exchange students at West find no trouble in getting involved with activities, celebrating some of its most treasured traditions.
“Getting to experience homecoming was really cool, we don’t have events like that back home,” Gia said.
As a student of West and resident of Wisconsin for a year, she anticipates the exciting experiences of American life that quickly become daily routines.
“Back home, we would only go out to eat like Americans a few times a month maybe, so I liked it at first, but now that it’s a daily occurrence and I don’t like it as much,” she said.
Gia is also getting to see a new form of education very different from her own. In Oshkosh, as students are given opportunities that Gia wasn’t able to take advantage of in Vietnam.
“School in Vietnam is really boring, not fantastic like American schooling. It is just math and literature. We don’t have any activities and we just write, write, write, and memorize the knowledge to prepare for the final exam,” Gia said.
Traveling across the country opened doors unavailable to her in Vietnam such as seeing a new culture and getting to know a new family.The opportunity to join clubs, go to dances, and take varying classes has helped her assimilate into a new and chaotic society.
“I like my new classes, especially Biology, English, and Cooking class,” Gia said.
West’s options for getting involved are plentiful compared to the focused schooling Gia has grown up with.
“The wide range of clubs and activities are the main reason why I came to America this year,” Gia said.
The possibilities are not only broader here in the United States, but endless after high school. As graduation is creeping closer, seniors and Gia alike are thinking about the future.
“After graduation, I am going to the United Kingdom; it’s only 10 hours to the United Kingdom from my hometown so my family can visit me more easily,” Gia said.
Despite her future plans, the 34-hour plane ride to a new school was worth it .
“Oh my God, America is great; I love the views and I love the people,” Gia said.
Correction: In the September 30 issue of the Oshkosh West Index, we mistakenly reported that Nachy was brought to the country through the Rotary exchange program. This was incorrect as she actually gained the opportunity through the efforts of AFS. Rachel Navis, her host sister, sees the value of the immersion that AFS provides for travelling. Not only is this opportunity beneficial in terms of development for Nachy, but for Navis as well.
“It’s a really good chance to experience what another culture is like, without actually having to travel there. It is interesting to see how other parts of the world work, and it’s really eye-opening because I realized the extent of the cultural differences,” Navis said.