Exchange students thrive at South Summit | ParkRecord.com

Exchange students thrive at South Summit

An exchange student from Japan, Rinako Yazi did not enjoy her first day at South Summit High School. Everything was different. And with everyone speaking English, she found it hard to keep up.

"The first day, it was very difficult," said Yazi, who is one of two exchange students at the school this year. "I couldn’t understand anything. After I came back home, I cried. The first week, I was so nervous."

Months later, Yazi has adjusted to high school. She has made several friends who have helped her along the way, and she has grown to appreciate the differences between American and Japanese culture. For example, students in America can choose elective courses, while those in Japan all take the same classes. And the holiday season here has been particularly fascinating.

"We don’t have Thanksgiving," Yazi said, adding that she enjoyed the chance to celebrate by eating a large meal. "We have Christmas, but it’s not very similar."

Getting to experience another culture is the reason most exchange students come to South Summit, said principal Steve Camp. They’re captivated by the way many things are done in school in America. For instance, many of them don’t have the option to participate in activities such as athletics in their home countries.

"One of the experiences they enjoy the most is to see the extracurricular activities schools do here," Camp said. "They’re not as common in the schools they come from. We have a lot of involvement and school spirit and all that goes with that. They’re fascinated with that."

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Camp said the exchange students aren’t the only ones learning about another culture, however. Having students from other countries allows South Summit students to get a glimpse into life elsewhere, as well.

"I think it’s a great experience for our students to interact with them," Camp said. "In the conversations with them, our students will ask what school is like there and get to know about their day-to-day experiences. It’s good for our students to connect and see that there are similarities, even though there are cultural differences. Basic human needs are the same. People want to be loved and accepted, and you can build relationships because of that."

That students recognize those similarities is one of the reasons they go out of their way to welcome exchange students such as Yazi.

"Our students are great that way," Camp said. "They try to make the exchange students fit in and feel comfortable. I’ve noticed students early in the year go around and make sure they have everything they need."