Foreign exchange students adjust to new culture

By Jacquelyn Guillen

Speaking English is not always easy for Muhammad Ali Baqir, Div. 652. One time in English class, he tried to say a word and kept stammering in front of his classmates. He took a breath and spoke slowly. Later on, he found it funny and made fun of the situation with his friends.

Baqir is a foreign exchange student this year at Lane. He is from Pakistan and his native language is Urdu. He is not the only exchange student this year though. Lane has other students from Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. The foreign exchange students have noticed a lot of differences between their culture and the culture here. For some of them, adjusting to a change in culture has been difficult, and for others it has been quite easy.

Adjusting to the language was difficult for Baqir. In Pakistan, he started learning English at a pre-school level. One way he works on his English in Pakistan is that he watches TV and movies in English to help him understand the language better.

On the other hand, adjusting to a new lifestyle has been easier for Baqir.

“I have more independence here, like I have my own time to myself. I can do whatever I want,” he said.

In Pakistan, Baqir’s mom constantly teases him if he is just sitting around in his room. She tells him he should be doing something instead of just sitting there. Here, if his host mom sees him sitting in his room, she encourages him to get up once, but then she leaves him alone.

Teresa Glaab, Div. 473, is from Germany and has adjusted to a lot of the social aspects in America and at school.

“We don’t have events like Homecoming, or Sprit Week. I like that about Lane,” Glaab said. “The most my school has is a soccer team, and nobody cares about them.”

Alessio Buechi, Div. 589, is from Switzerland, and one of the reasons he was able to adjust quickly here is because of his involvement in the school. Before school started, Buechi tried out for the soccer team and made the Junior Varsity team. He made friends right away.

“I love being on the team. I love it because of everybody there. My teammates are so nice and I like the feeling of playing for Lane,” Buechi said.

Buechi is not only proud to represent Lane, but he feels it is also his “responsibility” to represent the school. He also supports his new friends and teammates.

“One of our guys got kicked in the knee in a game and the ref didn’t say anything. We wanted to stand together and win the game for our injured teammate. I felt like I had to do something to make it right for him,” Buechi said.

Coming to America has not been completely smooth for everyone though. Celia Montez, Div. 674, had a more difficult time.

“My first day was terrifying at Lane. It’s a really big school, my school is smaller in Spain,” Montez said.

Montez signed up for some clubs recently to try to get more involved. She is looking forward to German Club because she has been learning German for more than a year, and she hopes to visit Germany one day. She also signed up for U.S.A club because she wants to learn more about America’s culture. Montez is trying to adjust, but she still feels homesick sometimes.

“I miss Spain. Missing your country is part of this kind of program because everything is different and you know nothing about all the new stuff,” Montez said. “I like this school, but I prefer Spain. Now I realize all the great things I have and do there, like my family and surfing.”

Baqir, Glaab, Buechi, and Montez are staying for the whole school year. Each of the students have something different to look forward to during their time here. Glaab is looking forward to graduation. Technically, she finished school in Germany last year, but decided to come to America for an extra year of school.

While some of the students are looking forward to seeing Chicago, Montez says one of her favorite parts about being in Chicago is visiting downtown. She especially likes Millennium Park. Baqir says he wants to see The Bean at Millennium Park up close in person.

Right now, Buechi just wants to have fun while he is in America and he wants to practice his English.

“I don’t even want to think about going back,” said Buechi. “I’m going to miss everything, my friends, and this school.”