By APRYL ORTEGA
The Foreign Exchange Student program at Redlands East Valley High School is created in order to give all students an amazing opportunity to experience new cultures and environments in a different country while attending school. This year, REV is hosting foreign exchange students from Italy, Brazil, and the Netherlands. Their experiences give a unique insight into American culture and can help people gain appreciation for things that are normal to American society.
When asked, most foreigners would probably say they would want to travel to California for the beaches, Disneyland, and Hollywood. However, the exchange students at REV came to California for a different reason. Italian student and water polo athlete Michele Sallustio chose to study in California to pursue athletics, sharing, “I wanted to come to California because of the different water polo opportunities.”
In learning about their experiences at REV, one is easily reminded that people do not take the time to acknowledge or appreciate accessible extracurricular and social opportunities that those in America enjoy. For example, Michele Sallustio appreciates that there are “many clubs and activities at REV to choose from” and Gloria Desideri describes her experience as fun and enjoys being part of the engineering and chess club. Thomas Schellekens also enjoys the connection to his tennis teammates.
People may not realize the things that seem normal in America may be completely strange to someone from another country. Hearing about different cultures from around the world by simply listening to how a normal thing in this country would be considered somewhere else is interesting to many. For example, Gloria Desideri thought the size of roads and cars were big in comparison to the streets and cars in Italy. Mariana Leite mentioned that Americans do not greet people with hugs and kisses as often as they do in Brazil.
Does Italian, Thai, Indian food, etc. actually tastes similar in their respective countries? While many people have not tried food from their country of origin, the exchange students provide insight to exactly how different the American version of their food is. Michele Sallustio says, “Italian pizza is very simple compared to American pizza.” Meanwhile, Gloria Desideri recommends The Cheesecake Factory for pasta similar to that in Italy. Thomas Schellekens and Mariana Leite both say their country does not make Mexican food as much as America and are pleasantly surprised to find foods they enjoy.
As a country, people do not realize the impression they are giving the rest of the world because they do not know what is going on and how others perceive America’s actions. After speaking to the exchange students, the impressions the rest of the world receives becomes very visible. For example, Michele Sallustio thought Americans would eat unhealthy food and have an easier school experience than Italians and that being an “athlete means they are important and successful.” Thomas Schellekens and Mariana Leite both believe Americans are extremely patriotic. Gloria Desideri says Italians believe that America has “a lot of violence,” though based on her experience, she has not found this to be true and believes that “America is the land of opportunity.”
The world offers different experiences that people take for granted because of what they are accustomed to. Meanwhile, other places around the world may negatively view what one country has as a luxury or a fault based on their experiences. People should appreciate the little things that make their environments unique but also attempt to appreciate the beautiful differences the rest of the world has to offer.