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Meet 3 of OHS’s Foreign Exchange Students
January 22, 2019
Editor in Chief
Anastasiya Sen, who goes by Nastya, is a sophomore foreign exchange student from a small town near Dnipro, Ukraine. From joining the cheer and nordic team to greeting everyone with enthusiasm and kindness, it is clear that she is eager to make the most out of her time in Minnesota.
Last April, after a selective application process (complete with multiples rounds of essay-writing and interviews) she received a call during her German language class: she had been selected to study abroad in the United States for her sophomore year. Before she came to Minnesota, her assigned location, she attended a meeting where she was taught differences between America and Ukraine, how to handle certain situations in America and essentially the reality of what studying abroad would entail.
“They just told us that it’s not so cool as it’s supposed to be… we will miss our family, our friends,” Sen said, “But I got a really great [host] family–they’re not strict, they really love me and I love them.”
Just as the lesson from the meeting promised, studying in Minnesota was tricky at first. Sometimes, she said, it was, and still can be, frustrating because it feels like there is no escape from English. Unlike her hometown where she walks everywhere, from school to her friends’ houses, the main way to get around in Minnesota is by car.
However, she said that she loves it here and has enjoyed attending an American high school. She loves the Mall of America and lockers, a distinct part of the American high school experience that she observed in movies and was excited to witness in real life. Her host family made her homemade tacos (it was her first time trying tacos) and in return she made them Ukrainian pancakes, which they found delicious.
As a ballroom dancer who is passionate about dance in general, trying out cheerleading last fall proved to be one of her favorite American experiences. Not only did she love the activity, but she also made new friends too.
“She came in like mid-August and didn’t really know anything about cheerleading or football, but she worked really hard and was super focused and turned out to be a really great cheerleader,” senior Alexandra Nicklow said, “she is a really genuine and kind person.”
“Kind” is one of the words that Sen wants Americans to associate with Ukrainians, “sweet” is another. As a representative for her country, she said, she wants to shed a positive light on Ukraine. Although she disagrees with parts of the Ukrainian government, she said that she belongs to a country of strong people–a country that is still one nation, despite a history of oppression from various government regimes.
Ukraine, and parts of Ukraine, has endured ruling under Poland, Lithuania, Russia, the Soviet Union, Romania and Czechoslovakia, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
“That’s the main characteristic of all Ukrainians: they can survive,” Sen said.
At just 16-years-old, having traveled across the globe to live with a new family and attend a new school, all in her non-native language, it’s clear that Sen shares that Ukrainian strength too.
Han-Yun Li (known to Orono students as “Karen”) is a foreign exchange student from Taiwan.
Taiwan is an island in East Asia. Karen hails from the country’s capitol Taipei. Karen speaks the official language of Mandarin Chinese.
The weather is far different than Minnesota, being quite hot and humid. A factor that helped Li decide where to travel to.
“Minnesota was the most northern state I could choose,” Li said, “I know it’s very cold, so I just thought it would be crazy to experience the cold weather. My city didn’t ever have snow.”
Her favorite places in Taiwan include Taipei 101, the night markets, and Planet Park. As for Minnesota, she considers the Mall of America to be her destination of choice.
Back in Taiwan, she participated in school activities such as swimming and comic club. Here she partakes in skiing, she also was on the stage crew for last fall’s production of “Little Women.”
“She’s a really sweet girl, fairly quiet and stays to herself for the most part,” said senior Aislinn Mobley, “But if you take the time to talk to her, you’ll find she’s a really nice girl, and that she loves to learn new things. She was very helpful backstage and willing to help wherever she was needed.”
She intends to study art and design in college and apply to schools in both Taiwan and the United States.
Switching schools in high school can be hard, but spending a year in an entirely different country? Now, that must be tough. Pere Mora Cabanes took on the challenge when he traveled from Valencia, Spain to Orono, Minnesota as a foreign exchange student for his sophomore year.
Spain is located in the southwest of Europe. It is a rugged country with mountains scattered across. Spain has three climate zones; Mediterranean climate, Southeastern Spain, and Northwest spain, according to internationalliving.org. Cabanes lives in the Mediterranean climate. This climate has hot summers and cold winters, but not as cold as Minnesota.
“The climate is one of the things that I miss most about Spain. Fall here, is colder than my winter,” Cabanes said.
Cabanes did not choose to be placed in Minnesota, he just matched with a host family. Although the adjustment may have been tough at first, with a mix of different climates and a completely different school experience, Pere did find friends.
“Extremely energetic, outgoing, creative, kind, loud, funny, and loves an excessive amount of ranch,” senior Brynn Iverson said when describing Cabanes.
Cabanes may be from a different country, but his personality seems to translate. When talking to a couple of his friends, they both agreed quickly on his kind nature.
“He is so caring,” senior Annika Peyton and Iverson said in unison. “He always checks up on you,” Peyton said.
When Cabanes came here, he called his friends and told them about how similar our school experience was to High School Musical. In Spain, required education ends at age 16. After that, teens have two choices: stop school all together or get a free education for the remaining two years, according to donquijote.org.
In Spain, students also eat their lunches at home after the school day has ended rather than at school.
“I thought it was going to be more like Spain…like, the cafeteria is like High School Musical and Mean Girls and it’s crazy for me,” Cabanes said.
At Orono High School, Cabanes participates in theater and was in the fall show The Little Women. He plans to be in the upcoming spring play.