Four exchange students join CF

Nuranineen Wama of Thailand, Faith Aruwan of Nigeria, Simon Bjelland of Norway and Ana Cunha of Brazil 

“It surprises me that everyone is so open and welcoming; there are people who’ve walked up to me right away and want to get to know me. I think that’s great.” -exchange student Simon Bjelland

For most people, high school is difficult enough, but four students walking the halls of Cedar Falls High School made the choice to challenge their high school experience even more by traveling abroad. This year, Cedar Falls High School welcomes four foreign exchange students representing just about every continent.

Pleasantly surprised, they all agree that the welcome they received upon arrival in Cedar Falls was warmer than they expected. “People here are really friendly. I thought no one would talk to me or care at all. I thought the only friend I’d have was a cat. The cat doesn’t have a culture, I wouldn’t have to adjust to him,” Ana Cunha of Brazil said.

Simon Bjelland of Norway also feels positive about the welcome he’s received while in Cedar Falls. “It surprises me that everyone is so open and welcoming; there are people who’ve walked up to me right away and want to get to know me. I think that’s great,” Bjelland said.

Faith Aruwan of Nigeria noticed that the atmosphere of Cedar Falls High School is much more laid back than her high school in Nigeria. “Some of the things are different, rights and privleges you have are way more. If a child misses class two times or more here, detention. In Nigeria, you get a zero and beaten by the teacher,” Aruwan said. As well as the difference in policies, Aruwan also observed a positive accomodating outlook while in Cedar Falls. “People are willing to help here, other places, it’s not like that.”

The welcome from students and host families has greatly eased the culture shock for these adventurous students. However, there are some things about American school and culture that will take time to adjust to. Aruwan is still getting used to the taste of some American foods. “It kind of tastes like vinegar, more spicy. I can’t always figure out where the ingredients are from,” Aruwan said. However, she enjoys some American foods such as spaghetti, waffles and cereal.

While all of these students miss certain things from home, there is one thing Nuranineen Wama of Thailand does not miss. “Here we begin school at 8 a.m. and finish at 2 or 3 p.m. At home, I started at 7:30 a.m. and finished at 4:30 p.m.,” Wama said.

Bjellend also had school on a much different schedule than what most American high schoolers are used to. “Every other day we had late mornings, Tuesday and Thursday 9:45, and 10:30 on Fridays,” Bjelland said. The length of the CFHS school day remains a consistent change for all the exchange students. Cunha misses her big lunch time meal every day and her school dismissal at 12:30 p.m. “I think you need to eat more here; I’m starved here in the morning. This is really weird to me. I don’t think the food they give here is a lunch, it’s more of a snack,” Cunha said.

Even though most of the students don’t like the school lunches, at the end of the day, they are thankful for a home cooked meal. “My host mom cooks really well, and I like the restaurants,” Cunha said.

In addition to providing meals, host families also provide support and advice to their exchange students. “They’ve helped me to be more flexible to the environment,” Aruwan said. Wama feels fortunate about living with senior Rachel Nurse’s family. “They’re very nice and I feel I’m so lucky that Rachel is my age and we can talk about anything,” Wama said.

The feeling is mutual according to Cedar Falls High School senior, Rachel Nurse, whose family is hosting Nuraineen. “My relationship with Nuraineen, we call her Deni — her American nickname that she chose — is wonderful. I have always wanted a sister and when the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student came up, I knew I was willing to try it! Deni and I share a room and we get along really well. We both love watching Glee and listening to music. She has only been here a month and I would already call her one of my best friends. She is super hilarious and always makes me smile!” Nurse said.

Despite the support of their host families, students still miss home sometimes. “Of course I miss all my friends back in Norway. They tried to convince me not to go. I think they envy me,” Bjelland said.




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