By Marina Renton
This year, AHS has welcomed several new international students: Sana Guesmi from Tunisia, Jeanne Vennerie from France, and Calum Tilston from Scotland. Both Sana and Jeanne are exchange students, but Calum is here to stay. The three were willing to share some of their first impressions of the United States in general and Andover High School in particular.
Sana, who is here via an AFS-USA (formerly American Field Service) program, was nervous before her first day of school.
“I was terrified on the first day that no one would accept me as a foreigner; however, I was surprised how the Andover High School welcomed me,” she said. Sana also mentioned that she was impressed by the kindness of the teachers.
Jeanne, who is sponsored by the Rotary club, was also nervous to begin school.
“I was really scared to come to a new place; I was a total stranger and did not know anybody,” she said.
Calum was most surprised by the number of students at the school.
“I was blown back by the amount of people in the foyer…there were just endless amounts of people everywhere,” he said.
All three students were surprised by the differences in the school day and courses from their home countries.
“The high school day is totally different than in France,” said Jeanne. “The day here is shorter and you can choose really fun classes. In France your day is longer and you cannot choose your courses.”
“Back home we do not have the opportunities to choose courses,” said Sana. “Here students are lucky because they can choose what they want to study.”
Calum added, “Having come from forty-five minute periods, I was a little perturbed [by the block schedule] to say the least.”
Calum also found himself out of the loop when it came to topics of conversation.
“At lunch…the people beside me were talking about someone called Skrillex and a game called Skyrim,” he said. “I had absolutely no opinion on either of these things. I have since become a Skrillex fan but haven’t managed to play Skyrim yet. Another thing I noticed at lunch was that people were saying, ‘that is wicked funny’ or ‘that is wicked sick.’ I had no idea what anyone was saying but I went along with it.”
All three new students found themselves the object of other students’ curiosity.
“The other students were so nice and they asked me many questions about my country and why I decided to be an exchange student,” added Sana.
“People were asking me what Scotland was like, whereabouts I came from in Scotland, why I moved, etc.,” said Calum. “I was taken aback by the barrage of questions, in particular the reaction when I told people I was from Scotland. It was: ‘You’re from Scotland? That’s so cool.’ Everyone was really nice.”
Jeanne found that after the initial burst of curiosity, she had to reach out to others herself in order to get to know people better. “Some people were welcoming and curious about me, but it didn’t last for long,” said Jeanne. “I understood that I really had to go toward people and make the first step. Even if it was not always easy, it worked and now I have good friends.”
In terms of general culture, Jeanne and Sana noticed differences when it came to food.
“Food is really different but it is good though!” said Jeanne. “Also dinner and lunch here are so early…. In France [dinner] is usually around eight in the evening, so it was hard to get used to it!”
“The food is so different here than my home country,” said Sana.
“I freaked out on the way home because I saw someone sleeping in the passenger seat where the steering wheel would be in a Scottish car,” said Calum. He was also taken aback by the New England weather.
“The weather here changes like I’ve never seen before,” he said.
The two exchange students had nothing but positive things to say about their experiences so far.
“I want to tell the readers how wonderful it is to be an exchange student and to learn about other cultures!” said Sana.
Jeanne has so enjoyed the experience that she recommended it to her brother and is now looking for a host family for him.
“It would be for a month over this summer,” she said. “He is really nice and athletic; he plays golf and rugby! He would like to come visit the United States for the first time. He is really excited, so if anyone is interested just let me know!”