Foreign exchange is an immersive program practiced by countries throughout the world.

Laila Rahbari

Foreign exchange is an immersive program practiced by countries throughout the world.

Izma Shakil, Photographer

Given the opportunity to live in a foreign country, global exchange programs are an exciting experience for students of any background. Every year, Seminole High School “trades” students with foreign schools through Rotary International to embrace a new culture, meet other students and receive a rounded education. Providing the infrastructure for foreign exchange, the Seminole Rotary club enables any student to participate in studying abroad. The club is well-known for this opportunity, visiting campus to give presentations for foreign exchange programs once a year. This school year, Seminole has received five international students: Rodolfo Carretero from Mexico; Kevin Gonzalez from Mexico; Bele Kakuschke from Germany; Larisa Kawakami from Japan; and Dominik Toth from Hungary.

Carretero is a Seminole High junior traveling from Puebla, Mexico. A new member of  Seminole High School’s Junior Varsity soccer team, Carretero divides his time between his newfound friends and his team. Although he subscribes to a well-adjusted lifestyle in the United States,. one of Carretero’s biggest challenges was learning the early morning school routine. 

“The school system is different back home at Instituto Oriente as I [went] to school at noon, [so] adapting to the early morning pick up by the bus was a [challenge]” said Carretero.

Carretero also adjusted to an impactful element of American life: extensive cell phone and media use. Having to use his phone all the time was a different cultural experience compared to Puebla, where cell phones are typically only used for sending messages or receiving phone calls.

“I started using my phone more [for] translating and [using] Snapchat,” said Carretero.

Back in Mexico, using a phone to text or look at social networking sites is a significantly uncommon practice, whereas face-to-face communication is prevalent. Thus, adapting to a newfound reliance on his phone was challenging, but Carrotoro eventually grew accustomed to both forms of communication and was able to implement both ways into his new lifestyle here successfully. 

Raised in Japan, Larisa Kawakami is learning and experiencing a new life in Florida. Along with learning about American culture, Kawakami enjoys the experience of making new friends and bonding with her fellow rotary students. For example, she recently visited Disney World with 22 other foreign exchange students that came to Seminole County. Kawakami also has faced challenges in her new residence including the stark differences between the American and Japanese cultures.

“I had to get used to the ‘hah?’ as an answer from Americans; in Japan, this is really rude and I would never do that” said Kawakami.

However, despite the difficulties with language, Larisa has learned very quickly how to respond to her peers without trouble and is eager to continue her experiences in America.

Raised in Aurich, a small town in Germany, Bele Kakuschke is a junior coming to an entirely new country. Having to adapt to a new schedule and lifestyle, Kakuschke describes America as a significant change in lifestyle. 

“I miss being independent! In Germany, I did everything by bike and I could go whenever I wanted to. Here, I have to ask for rides and can’t go by bike,” said Kakuschke.

Despite the challenges of a new environment, immersing in to a different culture and language gives students the ability to learn from a whole new perspective. As Seminole’s very own foreign exchange students have expressed, the opportunity to be in a foreign exchange program is a life-changing decision worth consideration.