THE SEMINOLE NEWSPAPER

EXCHANGE STUDENTS CHASE THE AMERICAN DREAM

From+left+to+right%3A+Marwin+Wongjarupun%2C+Maria+Motatilla%2C+Kiia+Toikka+and+Zoe+Busche+are+the+freshest+kids+on+campus%2C+as+they+are+here+from+foreign+countries.
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EXCHANGE STUDENTS CHASE THE AMERICAN DREAM

From left to right: Marwin Wongjarupun, Maria Motatilla, Kiia Toikka and Zoe Busche are the freshest kids on campus, as they are here from foreign countries.

From left to right: Marwin Wongjarupun, Maria Motatilla, Kiia Toikka and Zoe Busche are the freshest kids on campus, as they are here from foreign countries.

Izma Shakil

From left to right: Marwin Wongjarupun, Maria Motatilla, Kiia Toikka and Zoe Busche are the freshest kids on campus, as they are here from foreign countries.

Izma Shakil

Izma Shakil

From left to right: Marwin Wongjarupun, Maria Motatilla, Kiia Toikka and Zoe Busche are the freshest kids on campus, as they are here from foreign countries.

Jessica Ty, Photographer

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For many people across the world, living in America and learning English is an absolute dream. Kiia Toikka, Marvin Wongjarupun, Zoe Busche, and Maria Moratilla have done just that. Hailing from Finland, Thailand, Germany, and Spain, respectively, these four exchange students seek adventure, challenge, and international experience in Seminole High School’s campus.

Arriving in America from a foreign country and knowing little English can be uncomfortable for some exchange students. However, Kiia Toikka, a senior  from Finland, did not experience any culture shock when she came to Florida, since she has visited the United States before. Regardless, adapting to the American culture was exciting.

“I’ve been to West Palm Beach, Miami, [and] Orlando,” Toikka said. “I love the culture here and [the United States, in general,]‘ so much.”

Similarly, Marvin Wongjarupun, a senior foreign exchange student from Thailand, easily adjusted to the American culture since he had the opportunity to travel to Illinois last summer for three and half weeks. Although he did not face any immediate cultural challenges, he was surprised to see how open and friendly the people are in Florida.

“On the first day of school, a guy in the library suddenly struck a conversation with me and [unexpectedly] he taught me a handshake,” Wongjarupun said. “[A greeting] like that would have never happened in Thailand.”  

In contrast, starting on the first day, some exchange students have homesickness and find the shift in culture difficult to adapt to. With thousands of miles separating them from their home country, this disconnection can cause students to feel many emotions including sadness, happiness, and anxiety. 

Zoe Busche, a sophomore exchange student from Germany, did not instantly adapt to the transfer to America. Although she was ecstatic about coming to America, new fears surfaced when she arrived here.  

“I was scared my English was not good enough, or that people would not understand me [and] I [wouldn’t] be able to explain things, or that people here [would not be] nice to me and I [wouldn’t] be able to find any friends,” Busche said. “Everything is new. Then it clicked, ‘Okay I’m in the USA and here’s high school!’ Then, it clicked, ‘Oh gosh, what did I do?’”

Toikka, Moratilla, and Busche have always been eager to learn more English, and they explore the new language through immersive study. Wongjarupun, however, is opting to strengthen his knowledge of French by taking French 3. Since he was born in Belgium, he visits the country often and also learns more of the language. His French teacher, Dr. Carolyn Taylor, recognizes Wongjarupun as a personable and kind student.

“He fits right in, contributes to class, and has developed a great report with his peers. I would say that he has integrated very well from his old education system to America’s education system,” Taylor said.

Despite the challenges, living in a new country can also bring unforgettable adventure. These students are thrilled to fulfill the ideal high school experience by meeting new people and attending school events.

“I’ve [been] to two football games. It’s something new; we don’t have this in Germany. [All] the people cheering [is] so cool,” Busche said.

Along with school events, the exchange students are fascinated by the education system in America. Wongjarupun uses his stay here as a form of relaxation before furthering his education to hopefully become an engineer.

“The school system is very competitive [in Thailand] and this is a way to enjoy a bit of my life before [entering] university and working even harder,” Wongjarupun said.

Now that these new students have been in Florida for over a month, they have been able to fully adapt to the culture and school system here. Host families have allowed exchange students to ease into any overwhelming changes they might experience living here. They play an important role in creating a comfortable environment for the exchange students.

“We are really like family. I feel really good with them. I really appreciate that they’re doing this like it’s new for them and new for me and we are trying out [new things together],” Busche said.

The idea of meeting new people with such diverse backgrounds, traveling to an unfamiliar country, and learning the culture inspires students across the world to become foreign exchange students. For Toikka, Wongjarupun, Moratilla, and Busche, this is an incredible opportunity to discover a new perspective of different cultures while creating meaningful memories that they will cherished for the rest of their lives.

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