Exchange students experience american life

Hannah Harper, Editor-In-Chief

Imagine leaving your family for a few months, or even more terrifying, a whole year. This isn’t a normal time, like when you leave for college and visit home on breaks. It is a time period when you live with new people, complete strangers, and don’t have a full grasp of the lifestyle that you’ve been tossed into.

This is the experience of exchange students. Leaving your family before college, and having to spend it away from your family. No breaks to go home, only a weekly Skype call to your family, halfway around the world.

Two students, Giulia Lacaita and Sandra Bielak, said the experience to travel to America and become an exchange student was something that has always been on their mind. Bielak is a 17 year old from Warsaw, Poland, and Lacaita is a 17 year old from Varese, Italy.

The two girls have been learning English since the early grades of what we would consider elementary school, though Bielak has a bit of an advantage.

I started learning English when I was very young. In Poland we start learning English in grade one of elementary school,” said Bielak. “But I also heard English at home as that’s the language my parents speak to each other.”

Both of the teens are considered Juniors at Carroll, and they say the experience of school here in America is different from theirs at home.

Bielak (front) and Lacaita (back)were part of the girls cross country team this fall. They both were able to run the last race of the season, at The Plex North of September 22, 2018. Photo by Mindy Waldron

“One of my favorite things is probably school, which is very different from my school in Poland,” said Bielak. “I love being able to choose my classes and having electives and extracurriculars.”

The process to get into an exchange program take longer than the actual application process. Both Bielak and Lacaita had plans for over a year before applying for the program, and had to know long before that they really did want to become exchange students.

“I decided to become an exchange student in the 9th grade,” said Giulia. “And I decided to come to America because I love this country and I wanted to try to live as an American teenager.”

“I have always wanted to be an exchange student,” said Bielak. “I applied for the program in October 2017 and when in April 2018 I found out I made it I already knew there’s no way I’m not going.”

Sometimes, the placement can be a little spontaneous, and not knowing when you will be leaving or who you will be living with can be a little nerve wracking.

“I got my placement a week before arriving here,” said Bielak. “I was already expecting to have my flight rescheduled for a later date, so saying goodbye so suddenly was hard.”

American life is normal for kids at Carroll, but the two students day that it is very different from where they come from, and is especially different than what they see in the movies. Figuring out the life they have to live while spending time here is very difficult, and making adjustments from their lifestyle into American lifestyle can be a challenge.

“The hardest part is to be far from the people that you love and arrive in a new country with a different language and a different culture where you don’t know anyone and you have to try to make friends,” said Lacaita. “But this is also the most beautiful part.”

Not only can adjusting to a new life be difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. Because the students are immediately immersed in American culture, they get to be a part of the famous melting pot of America.

“I love meeting so many people from different cultures and discovering that there actually more similarities than differences between us,” said Bielak.

Because the girls are here for such a short time, less than a year, they have a very big challenge; having to soak up every ounce of experience they can before they have to leave.

You want to spend this year in the best way possible, because you realize it’s all just temporary and you might never again have a chance to do some of the things you did here,” said Bielak. “That’s why you try to get involved in as many things as possible, experience as many things as possible and use all the opportunities you get.”

Not only do they get to have experiences of a normal high schoolers in America, but Lacaita has had the opportunity to go to New York before the school year started, Chicago at the beginning of October, and Washington D.C. during the second weekend in November.

“I love the people and the possibilities that this country gives and the different things that here you can find,” said Lacaita. “I am so happy to be here also because I found amazing people.”