Changing schools is one thing but changing countries and cultures is another as three foreign exchange students at Pratt High School are leaning.
Stefania Staffolani from Milan, Italy, Sofia Konkel of Curitiba, Parana, Brazil and Diego Leo from Sao Paulo, Brazil are leaning the ropes as they take part in the year-long American Field Service foreign student program.
Brazilian Konkel said some of her friends had been exchange students and she wanted to try it too. One of the first changes she had to adapt to was changing rooms for each class. In her school, that has 1,000 students in grades 10, 11 and 12, the students stay in the same room and the teachers change classes. There are 53 students in her class. Although she is a junior in Brazil, in the U.S. her grade level is sophomore because of credit recognition.
There she is required to take physics, chemistry and math as well as geography. Her favorite class at PHS is math but history is hard, Konkel said.
There are no organized sports teams in Brazilian schools but she does like to play volleyball, soccer, handball and basketball.
Another big change for Konkel is school hours. In Brazil, classes start at 7:15 a.m. and the school day ends at 12:40 p.m.
Konkel likes America and Pratt and is enjoying everything. She is getting used to the smaller population. She comes from a metropolitan area with from 8 million to 10 million people. She said Pratt is a very cute town and its very quiet and peaceful.
While she likes it in Pratt, she does miss her family and friends back home. Her mother's birthday was Aug. 30. She has a 9-year-old brother Ricardo and they have three cats they adopted from the street as well as three turtles and a dog. They live in a house in the suburbs. In Pratt, she lives with the Jeff Slater family.
She is adjusting to the new food. Peanut butter is her new favorite. She had never tasted it before because there is no peanut butter in Brazil. She likes Italian food especially pao de queijo, a cheese bread.
Both Konkel and Leo attend private school in Brazil. The country doesn't put much money into public education. In public school, the teachers don't care and students don't care about the school so its not a good public system in Brazil, Leo said.
At his school in Brazil, they have tests every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
In his leisure time he likes to go to the shopping malls, bowl, go the park and go to lots of parties.
There are many more private schools than public and many students attend private school, said Leo whose school day starts at 7:10 a.m. in Brazil.
His favorite class at PHS is economics while biology is hard for him.
Leo said everything is different here including the size. His hometown has 20 million people. He misses his family and friends. Aug. 27 was father's day in Brazil and he admitted he cried a little.
In Sao Paulo, Leo lives with his parents, Barbara and Harley and 19-year-old sister Amanda. They have a dog named Peppa. In Pratt, he lives with Debbi Hammond.
One thing each foreign exchange student has to do is adjust to their host families. Leo said it was quite different from his family in Brazil.
Leo said there are no organized sports in school and no state competitions like in America. He likes to play handball, go swimming, lift weights and run.
His favorite new food is Mexican food. In Brazil, his favorite food is Japanese.
He likes to travel and has traveled over all of Brazil plus Chile, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Paraguay and the Bahamas. In the U.S. he has visited New York, Miami, Orlando and Las Vegas.
Staffolani said there were many public schools in Italy and you have to pay to attend.
She is also getting used to a much smaller community. Her home town of Milan has about 1.5 million people with about 5.5 million in the entire metropolitan area. She is adopted and has a 14-year-old brother, also adopted and they live with their mother Rosanna and dad Massimo in a fifth floor apartment.
One thing she noticed immediately was that there was not much noise in Pratt.
She decided to take part in the AFS program because she loves to travel. She has traveled across much of Italy and visited Germany, France and Columbia.
It was expensive but she won a scholarship to take advantage of the program.
She is getting to know the customs in America and the Jeff Slater family where she lives in Pratt.. She is also getting to taste new foods. Her favorite new food is granola.
In Milan, Staffolani likes to do track and field. She is doing cross country at PHS and so far, one of her biggest challenges is running three miles then doing weight training and then running another three miles.
So far, her favorite class is calculus. She likes the smaller class size because of the individual attention.