FHS hosts two exchange students
According to two foreign exchange students at the Fairfield High School, the United States is radically different from their home countries.
Federico Ferretti, from Italy, and Akmaral “Marika” Abduraimova, from Kyrgyzstan, have been in Fairfield since mid-August and they will stay here the entire school year.
Ferretti comes from the city of 30,000 called Fabriano. Abduraimova grew up in a big city called Jalalabad, 20 times the size of Fairfield at 200,000 people. They came to the United States for essentially the same reasons: to learn a new culture, learn a new language and meet new friends.
They are both the first in their families to visit the United States. However, they did have friends who told them about America and how different it was.
“My friends told me everything was different, and now I can see every single thing is different,” Ferretti said.
Ferretti said school is run completely differently in Fairfield than in his home country. In Fabriano, he only goes to school in the morning, but he comes home with a mountain of homework.
In Fairfield, Ferretti has found he rarely has homework because the teachers give the students time to complete their assignments. Not only that, he finds the coursework easier in the states.
One big advantage of Fairfield High School, and of American high schools in general, is that it allows the students to choose their own classes. That’s not true in Fabriano. Ferretti said the students’ schedules are dictated every year of high school, of which there are five in Italy.
“There is more freedom here, and a wider variety of choice,” he said.
Abduraimova said her schedule in Kyrgyzstan is quite different from the one she follows here. At her school back home, she attended different classes every day of the week.
A major difference she noted was how friendly American teachers are. She said the teachers in Kyrgyzstan are much stricter and the classes much harder. For that reason she prefers the classroom atmosphere here.
Abduraimova has breezed through her math classes at FHS. The material she’s learning now is review for her because she learned most of it two years ago.
The classes that require advanced English vocabulary are difficult for the two exchange students. They took English classes before arriving but they are still in the process of mastering the language.
Abduraimova said her journalism class is tough because it contains so many words specific to journalism that are unfamiliar to her. She said she would do better in the class if she didn’t have to spend so much time translating the terms into her native Kyrgyz.
Ferretti said his U.S. history class is probably his most difficult class because of the language barrier. Fortunately, the teachers are accommodating and slow down or repeat the material upon request. Abduraimova said she has felt nothing but complete support from the staff at FHS.
“If I had a problem, they gave me more time to prepare the assignments, especially at the beginning of the school year,” she said. “People talk so fast.”
Ferretti and Abduraimova said they both learned British English in their schools back home, so it took awhile to adapt to American English. Some of these are minor. For instance, Ferretti has noticed Americans prefer to say “shut the door” whereas he learned the phrase as “close the door.”
Abduraimova’s high school is shorter, lasting only until 11th grade Students have told her how lucky she is to get out of school a year earlier, while they have sympathy for Ferretti because he has to stay in high school through 13th grade.
Schools in Italy and Kyrgyzstan do not sponsor extracurricular activities. If a student wants to play a sport, he has to do that through a club outside the school. Ferretti said school in Italy is meant for studying and little else. He said he much prefers the American arrangement.
School choirs exist in Kyrgyzstan but they’re only for young children, not high-schoolers. Abduraimova is excited she can participate in the high school choir and the band, where she plays the xylophone and the marimba.
Both students mentioned Homecoming Week was something they never could have imagined occurring in their native schools. Abduraimova said she loved how all the students get into the festivities that week.
Ferretti said students seem to be emotionally closer in America because they spend not just the school day together but their extra-curricular activities, too. In Italy, he attends school with one group of friends and then plays sports with another group.
Ferretti tried out for the football team and became the Trojans’ kicker. He kicked extra points, kickoffs and occasionally punts, too. He never played American football in Italy and was nervous about having to tackle another player.
“I was scared at the beginning because I didn’t know how, but the coaches caught me how to tackle,” he said.
His favorite sport is basketball, which he will play this winter. He’s also trying to decide between going out for soccer or track in the spring.
Abduraimova may try her hand at tennis later this year, but her focus is on excelling on the speech team. She’s excited to be on the team because nothing similar exists at her school in Kyrgyzstan.
“We don’t really have clubs in school,” she said.
Italy is known for its pasta, which Ferretti has craved ever since he left the country. He has asked his host parents John and Lori Stever to buy him pasta because he can’t live without it.
Since the school day is only 8-12 in the morning in Fabriano, Ferretti eats lunch and dinner with his family. In each case, the family spends about an hour preparing the meal. He and Abduraimova have noticed Americans prefer quick meals that can be made from ingredients in a box. Abduraimova said a typical meal in Kyrgyzstan consists of fresh vegetables and meat. Her host parents, Ron and Diana Drish, expose her to American food but also cook food she’s accustomed to eating.
Students in America live a different lifestyle than in other countries because they can drive at a young age. Ferretti said you must be 18 to drive in Italy, so high school students walk or bike where they need to go. He said he likes that American students have the freedom to drive.
The exchange students said everything in America is super-sized, especially the houses. Not only are the houses in town bigger than in their own countries, they have large yards and there is much space between houses, too.
Ferretti said very few people in Italy have a home with a yard like most people in Fairfield. Most Italian and Kyrgyz homes are behind a wall.
“They want their private space in Italy,” Ferretti said.
Ferretti said people in Fairfield trust each other. He was surprised to learn how many people leave their cars and homes unlocked. Abduraimova agreed that such a thing would be unheard of in her homeland.