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Coming to 48th Street


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4,537 miles. 4,790 miles. 4,929 miles. 4,930 miles. 6,230 miles.

These are the distances eight foreign exchange students have traveled from their home countries to Missouri.

“Even if the experience is good or bad it doesn’t matter. It’s still something that you try and it gives you some kind of view of other countries, other cultures and you realize that you can do a lot of things on your own,” senior student from Czech Republic, Gabriela Behounkova said.

Although it may seem stressful to open your home for a student from another country, International Club sponsor Cynthia Jackson believes it is not as hard as it seems.

“What our families don’t realize at Winnetonka is it doesn’t really cost you anything. These students come with their own money. All we have to provide is a bed, a place for them to store their clothes, a place for them to shower and feed them on weekends,” Jackson said.

Each student chose to come to America for a different reason. Some want to improve their English while others want to experience American culture.

“America is the center of the world,” senior student from Japan, Ekai Hashimoto said.
Some students experienced culture shock while adapting to a new country.

“I think everything is really huge, the schools are so long and the stores are so big,” senior student Antonia Hubalek said.

The American school system also contrasts to the school systems in other countries.
“It was a little bit overwhelming on the first school day because I come from a school where we only have 450 students,” Hubalek said.

In the Czech Republic, students finish school at the age of 19 or 20. Behounkova is only staying in America until December to insure she does not fall behind on Czech Republic’s curriculum.

“When I come back I have to pass some final exams in our country,” Behounkova said, “You have to prove that you have the same knowledge of all the students who stayed in your class during the time you were here.”

The extra-curriculars offered here are not always an option in other countries.
“It’s more exciting here because you have more extra activities,” senior student from Germany, Tamara Woitge said.

In France, senior Mihnea Mocanasu is limited on the amount of extra curricular activities he can participate in.

“You have to go outside of school to do that kind of stuff. School is just school,” Mocanasu said.
According to Jackson, having a supportive host family is important to the student’s success while studying abroad.

“I’m really happy with my family, I think I was very lucky. They support me a lot, I think without a family that really talks with you, it’s harder,” Hubalek said.

Woitge and Behounkova are staying with the same host family.

“It’s very cool. We love to chat together and we learn each other’s language. At the beginning you have someone who’s new too and you can talk to them,” said Woitge.

Students who study abroad are given the ability to widen their horizons.

“I want to learn the culture and meet new people and new places,” said Hubalek.
Jackson’s goal is for more students to develop friendships with people from different countries.

“Our foreign exchange students have expressed to us that sometimes its difficult to get to know people,” Jackson said, “I just want our students to understand that they’re not strangers and that’s been the hardest thing to get across to everybody. I learn something new every day.”

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Coming to 48th Street