For Amelie Kurz, an 11th grade foreign exchange student from Berlin, Germany, everything about school in America is different.
She has had to learn to adjust to everything from life at her new home to school in California. Kurz chose to come to the United States because she wanted to be a part of the American high school experience that is so often seen on TV. She also came to learn English.
“I wanted to improve my English,” Kurz said. “[I chose] America because of the culture and school spirit and all of that.”
Kurz takes English 11, US Government, US History, Sociology, and Yearbook. She is also a TA for track and field. Of these classes, she said Yearbook is the easiest for her.
School can be challenging, but for someone from another country, it becomes a whole new level of difficult. She mentions that English is the hardest class she takes because taking any classes in English is a lot harder than in German, her native language.
“It’s not so easy to understand,” Kurz said. “My teachers speak so fast.”
However, Kurz does say that her teachers do their best to make it easier for her.
“I think they try to help me a little bit more than the others.” Kurz said.
Kurz said that one of the biggest differences between Thousand Oaks High School and her school in Germany is the way the classes are set up.
“In Germany you have one classroom and one class and the teacher comes to you.” Kurz said. “And you can’t choose your classes.”
Grades are also very different in Germany. Instead of getting letter grades from A to F, her school uses numbers, the highest being a 1 and the lowest a 6.
Despite all the differences, Kurz likes school in America much better than school in Germany. When asked if there was anything from her school she wishes she could bring to Thousand Oaks, Kurz says that there is nothing. However, she still misses some parts of her life in Germany, including her family. Staying here for the entire school year, ten months, Kurz has had to adjust to living with a different family.
“It’s okay, first you feel like it’s new, and everything is new… with time it gets better and you get used to the family and their traditions.” Said Kurz
Kurz has had to get a new routine and lifestyle as she gets used to living with another family and going to school in the United States. It can be scary, leaving everything one knows and experiencing new places, so joining an exchange program takes courage. As she has become closer to the people she is staying with and made many friends in Thousand Oaks, Kurz has gotten used to the contrasting cultures of the people in Germany and people in the United States
Life is very different for Kurz, but in a good way. Kurz agrees that moving away to live in another country is a great experience for teenagers, and recommends it to everyone.
Melina Natsidis, a foreign exchange student from Germany, found many things surprising about life in America. From friends to classes to dress codes, Natsidis is learning a lot as she begins to settle into her ten months in the United States.
Natsidis chose to live here because she loved the idea of going to American high school. In Germany, there are no sports or activities at Natsidis’ school.
However, she has soon learned that high school in America is not all football games and dances. As part of her foreign exchange program, Natsidis has to take English, US Government, and US History. For fun, Natsidis also takes Photography, Spanish, and Swim.
Natsidis said that Spanish is the easiest class for her because she also took it in Germany. The hardest for her is US History.
“There are a lot of words I don’t understand.” Natsidis said.
While she is still getting used to the academics at our school, Natsidis did not have many problems fitting in. She found that there are a lot of amazing people at Thousand Oaks High School, and has a great support system with her friends and the family she is staying with.
“[People] are really open and they’re kinda like ‘hey, do you wanna go to lunch?’ So the first day I think twenty people had asked me if I wanted to eat lunch with them.” Natsidis said.
Another part of the foreign exchange experience is moving away and living with a new family that they have never even met before. They live in a different house with strangers for an entire school year. Natsidis has found that this can be very strange at first.
“It’s different, and in the beginning it’s really hard because you don’t know them. It’s kind of weird because you don’t really know what to say and what to do, and of course they say you can do everything you want, you can take the TV, you can take the computer, you can go to the fridge, but you’re kind of thinking like, ‘Can I do this now?’ Because you’re a stranger.” Natsidis said.
Now, however, as time has gone on, Natsidis said that it is totally normal.
Aside from living with a family she had never met until she moved here, Natsidis says that the school structure here is also very different. While here we have the same classes every day, Natsidis has different classes in her school in Germany depending on each day. Every day, her schedule is different. She also takes many more classes in her school in Germany than she does at Thousand oaks High School. When the Lancer asked how many, it took Natsidis a little while to count up all of them
“So many,” Natsidis said. “I think it’s around twelve or thirteen.”
Natsidis states that if she could bring one thing from her school to Thousand Oaks, it would be the ever-changing class schedule. She notes that she gets bored of the same classes each day.
“I want to have other classes.” Natsidis said. “I don’t like it if I have the same classes, it’s kind of the same every day.”
One of the parts of school in California that Natsidis was not expecting was the relaxed dress code at Thousand Oaks High School.
“What I find surprising is that people dress how they want to at school. I thought here there was a dress code like the American dress code, but I think no one is doing it. In Germany we can wear what we want, but here people come in pajamas . . . .” Natsidis said.
Natsidis recommends joining a foreign exchange program to anyone who can.
“Everybody should do it because you get so many experiences and you grow. You have a lot of friends in other countries, and you meet a lot of other foreign exchange students.” Natsidis said. “You have friends all over the world.”
When she first learned she would be staying in California for a year, Chiara Moni screamed and told everybody she knew. Moni is an 11th grade foreign exchange student from Italy. She never thought she would be lucky enough to get to live in California until she got her housing assignments.
Moni came to America with a foreign exchange program called American Field Service, (AFS). She is on the JV girls volleyball team, and already made many friends from California and all over the world. The Italian native has only lived here for a month, but it already feels like home.
Moving across the world to another country is difficult, but Moni has wanted to live in America since she was little.
Her original interest in the United States was brought forward when she watched High School Musical as a kid.
“Your school is really interesting. You have football games, and things like that,” Moni said. “I saw High School Musical when I was little, and it looked so fun [that] I wanted to go.”
However, California is not exactly what Moni expected it to be.
“I expected Californians were different. And I expected more palm trees.” Moni said.
According to Moni, school is very different in Italy than it is in Thousand Oaks.
“We don’t have sports at our school.” Moni said. “We go to school and we have classes, and then we go home. We don’t have prom or homecoming, and if you want to do sports, there are clubs… but it’s completely different from school.”
Moni takes US government, US history, English 11, French, math analysis, and girls volleyball.
“The easiest is French,” said Moni. “I wanted to do French 4 because I’m pretty fluent, but it’s a first period class and I don’t want to wake up early, so French 3 is easy.”
In Italy, Moni started school at 8:10 everyday, and had school for about six hours. She also go to school on Saturdays and have less holidays than we have in the United States.
While she may have less days of school, that does not make it any easier. Moni finds many of the classes she takes to be difficult.
“The hardest is between English, Math, and US Government. Maybe Math, because it’s in English.” Moni said. “The definitions change.”
Among many other differences between her life here and in Italy, Moni had to get used to living with another family.
“I’ve never had brothers or sisters. So it’s weird, but it’s cool. I love my new family. They’re nice to me and I like having siblings.” Moni said.
Despite all the great experiences she’s had, there are many things Moni misses about Italy, including her parents, friends, and, of course, Italian pizza.
“Pizza in Italy is fantastic, and pizza here is disgusting,” Moni said.
She comments on the fact that pizza here can be much more expensive than pizza in Italy. Moni was very passionate when asked her opinion of pineapple as a topping.
“Don’t eat it!” Moni said. “It’s not good! If you go to Italy and say ‘What do you think of pineapple on pizza, because I think it’s pretty good,’ they’re gonna kill you.”
Despite differences in food and school, however, Moni loves being a Lancer and living in California. When asked if she would recommend joining a foreign exchange program, Moni was very enthusiastic.
“Yeah! I think it’s hard, because I felt homesick,” Moni said. “But it’s a beautiful experience and if you have the chance to do it you should.”