Lincoln High plays host to international students

By: Brandon Darnell
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High school can be a daunting place for many, and that’s especially true if you have only lived in the country for five days. For Roxana Kantuta Mamani Oporto, however, it proved to be an adventure rather than a catastrophe. Oporto, who goes by Kantuta, was one of four foreign exchange students to start the year at Lincoln High School. Hailing from the city of Oruro, in Bolivia, Oporto’s biggest challenge has been the language barrier between her and her teachers. With only two hours studying English per week for two years, she wasn’t as prepared for instruction in full English as she might have been. Being immersed in American culture has helped her English immeasurably, however. No one in her host family speaks Spanish, so she has been forced to learn quickly. Having a multitude of Spanish-speaking students didn’t hurt with the transition either. “Here, the people are lovely,” she said. “It’s a great experience.” Sponsored by the Lincoln Rotary Club, Oporto currently lives with Karl and Dyann Andersson, whose daughter is living in Madrid as part of the Rotary exchange program. As anyone can imagine, moving in with a family you have never met in a country you have never visited can have its share of difficulties, both linguistic and cultural. “We’re doing all right. We all struggled at first,” Dyann said. “She’s getting better with English, and we’re only supposed to speak English to her.” Hosting a foreign exchange student was something the Anderssons had thought about, but weren’t sure they had the time for. They also feared, since they own their own businesses and can’t drop everything to show a student distant parts of the state or country on a whim, that they would be selling the student short. In having their daughter sponsored by Rotary, however, hosting an exchange student became an obligation. Their initial fears were mitigated by the fact that Rotary schedules and provides various side trips for the students in the region, ensuring they get the opportunity to travel around. “I’m excited to go to Disneyland,” Oporto said. One of her favorite things about living in the United States is the opportunity to get to know different places around California, and getting a feel for how Americans live. “We love the idea of the whole program,” Dyann said. She added that their life didn’t take any drastic turns once Oporto arrived and that they are still able to do all the same things they did before. “It’s an exciting thing. We’re enjoying having Kantuta,” she said. Oporto was one of four foreign exchange students to start the school year at Lincoln High School. One returned home to be with her boyfriend, who she had met only a month before leaving for the States and missed deeply, said Kris Wyatt, head counselor at the school. Another student, Simon Arming, from Salzburg, Austria, had to return home two weeks ago, but Wyatt said it had nothing to do with any disciplinary problem at the school. Arming had been enrolled in business and leadership classes, and was proud of the straight As he was maintaining. “It’s great, and I love it. I love every day and everybody,” Arming said two weeks before he had to return to Austria. Each exchange program has its own rules, and Arming was here through the International Student Exchange program. Wyatt said she could only speculate that there had been some conflict within the program that required him to go home. When the students arrive in the United States, they have usually already graduated or are taking a year off from their schooling and receiving no credit for the classes they take over here. “Their education is very different from ours. Ours is easier,” Wyatt said. In Austria, for example, Arming attended 14 different classes each day. Another difference is that, when they come to the U.S., it is illegal for the students to drink and smoke, something they can typically do in their own countries. It’s not just the exchange students who get a different perspective with their education when they come here, however. Wyatt said that the American students also get extra cultural exposure and are given a unique opportunity to learn about another country. “It gives them a new insight on kids from other countries. They love the fact that they can get to know what life and school are like in other countries,” Wyatt said. Though the opportunities for learning and cultural exposure through an exchange program are great, there are drawbacks. Oporto misses her friends and family, but is able to communicate with them regularly by phone and e-mail. Despite that, she is happy she came here, and is enjoying her time. “I will have good memories of the U.S.,” she said.