Culture Shock


Kari Porter

Emma Alander and Anna Maria Diana from Sweden and Italy hold their countires flags. They will be displayed in the commons all year.


Imagine leaving for a year, far from everything “normal” to experience something new. Speaking a new language, eating new food, and being thrown into another culture may all sound intimidating. Many people may not ever think they could do something like that, which is what makes youth exchange something different. The culture shock these students experience is something most 16 to 17 year olds will never encounter.

This year at GEHS there are two outgoing, four incoming and two returning exchange students. Juniors  Ryan Billups and Minnie Wedding are outgoing exchange students. Billups is living in Italy and Wedding is living in Spain. Seniors Dani Francis and Kari Porter are returning, Francis from Belgium and Porter from Italy. Incoming students include Amanda Puebla-Fernandez, Chile; Anna Maria Diana, Italy; Amelie Jenker, Germany; and Emma Alander, Sweden.

When thrown into a new culture, one would expect many changes. Many of the students mentioned that school, the language, and the food were the major differences between America and their home.

“The most difficult thing to adjust to is the food and the language,” said Diana.

Most of the exchange students talked about how they miss their native food. The food in America has been hard for them to adjust to.

Amanda Puebla-Fernandez said the biggest difference between school in Chile and school in America is changing classes because they do not change classes at all in Chile.

This difference in schooling is seen throughout the world and the exchange students gave some insight on that. School sports are something new for the students and the course work also tends to be simpler and more hands on compared to that of other countries as Jenker explained.

“School is more difficult in Germany because we write so much more,” Jenker said.

Jenker also described her excitement for school sports and activities. She is currently playing tennis and plans on trying out for the basketball team in November.

Traveling to new countries tends to be something many people enjoy. The exchange students had a variety of reason for choosing to come to the U.S.

“I chose America and then Rotary told me I was coming, that is why I am here,” Diana said.

“I chose America because I have been here several times before and I love speaking English,” Jenker said.

Although Jenker had visited America before, it is the first time for others.

“The girls I know who have been here before said they liked it,” Fernandez said, “I chose it also because I wanted to travel.”

At the beginning of an exchange, these may be common responses, but once a student returns they may change according to Francis. When coming back into a culture, it may be even harder to adjust. Francis said that she had  left for a year and thought everything would be the same when she got back. She explained that she soon learned that only part of this was true.

“It is really weird that everything seems the same, but it is nice to see everyone after a year,” Francis stated.

Adjusting back to the native language and cultures could be difficult after you have lived in another country for so long. Francis explained this change. Within a year you have to adjust to a new culture and then come back and try to live in the one that you have known your whole life.

Francis mentioned, “Sometimes words come to me in French before they come to me in English.”

According to the students, exchange is something new and exciting. It is also something that many students do not get to experience. Even if exchange is not possible, it is still possible to experience a new culture. Become friends with someone from another country and ask questions or simply travel if possible. Culture shock may sound terrifying to some, but it may also be extremely rewarding in the long run.