Exchange students add diversity
SCHUYLER COUNTY—Each year, Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour schools welcome foreign exchange students into the community.
This year, there are two students attending each school. The students live with host families in the area. Each time, it is a learning experience not only for the students and hosts, but also for other people in the community who get to know these teenagers.
Most of the exchange students come from bigger cities. David Leung, from Hong Kong, said being in Watkins Glen is relaxing compared to city living back home. He added there are crowds of people and air pollution.
Odessa-Montour’s Wu-Ting “Dan” Sun from Taiwan said transportation is one difference about living in a rural area. He said in the city, having public transportation is pretty convenient. In Schuyler, Dan said more people take their own cars.
Mastuna Samandarova, Odessa exchange student from Tajikistan, said another difference here is that more people know you. She said in this smaller community people are “very kind and help me.”
Watkins Glen’s Maria Chavez, Chile, also said the school size is different from what she is used to. However, that hasn’t stopped Maria from getting involved. She is a member of the Watkins Glen varsity volleyball team. Maria said as soon as she got here she wanted to join the team.
Dan attends the soccer games at Odessa, which are frequent. He said this is something seldom done in Taiwan. He said another change for him is the structure of his day. Dan said in Taiwan he had to get up at 5 a.m. to study. He added that some days he didn’t get home until 9 p.m.
The exchange students also talked about how receptive people have been. Dan said he discovered when he talked to others, his fellow students became more friendly.
“In Taiwan, if you don’t know each other, you don’t talk,” he said.
Mastuna said the communication barrier was tough at first. However, she explained teachers introduced her to the other students. Now she finds people are interested in her culture and religion, which she said is different than here in the U.S. Mastuna is now also sharing studying techniques.
David also said the communication barrier was a struggle, but now he too is sharing his culture. He said coming to the U.S. was a big challenge.
“It was the first time leaving my parents in Hong Kong,” he said.