End of the school year means going back to their hometowns for many foreign exchange students. Reasons for seeking out the foreign exchange program is different between students. (Trisha Dasgupta)
End of the school year means going back to their hometowns for many foreign exchange students. Reasons for seeking out the foreign exchange program is different between students.

Trisha Dasgupta

International flare comes to campus

October 4, 2021

Already filled with students from a variety of backgrounds, there’s an extra dose of diversity on campus with the addition of  two foreign exchange students.


provided by Vivien Kutscha

For German Vivien Kutscha getting to Frisco was a journey two years in the making.

Two year wait leads to a year in Frisco

After two years of applications and anxiously waiting in Bielefeld, Germany, Vivien Kutscha found out she was accepted into a program that would allow her to study in America. 

She is part of the youth exchange program CBYX (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange), a joint effort between the United States and Germany to allow young adults to experience other cultures. 

I’ve seen Americans on TV and movies, and it was just really interesting to me,

— German foreign exchange student Vivien Kutscha

“I have a special process because I was applying for a scholarship, a political one from the German Bundestag and the U.S. Congress, called CBYX,” Kutscha said. “I applied in summer, and it was like half a year of applying and getting to the next round and to the next round because only one student out of 25 got the scholarship.” 

She was chosen out of hundreds of applicants and had to wait a year after her application was accepted. 

“It was a lot of small steps, and in the end, the politicians chose me to come here,” Kutscha said. “The second year I spent preparing things and writing my application stuff so host families could see who I am, and in the end, I found a nice host family.”

Kutscha first decided to participate because she was interested in the American high school experience she saw on TV. 

“I’ve seen Americans on TV and movies, and it was just really interesting to me. I watched High School Musical, and I thought it was so cool,” Kutscha said. “It was about two years ago, and I thought maybe I could do something like that.”

She also hoped to gain a new and different experience. 

“I wanted to meet new people and experience a new culture, because things are pretty different here than they are in Germany.”

Kutscha quickly learned of the disparities between the U.S. and Germany.  

“I would say the people are the most different. I would say the people in Germany are not that open, and here, everybody wants to talk to you and meet you and know you,” she said. “Like as soon as I arrived at my first class, everybody was like introducing themselves and trying to get to know me.”

She currently lives with her host family, senior Vanessa Jara and her mom Plamena Zaharieva. 

“Adding another member to our family brought more responsibilities for us. We had to guide Vivien through the school system, and also educate her on some cultural differences,” Zaharieva said. “We had to establish house rules to make sure we all have the same understanding.”

“Also, it’s a lot of getting used to the cultural norms and they’re learning from you about your country and you’re learning from them about their country, so every day is a learning experience in some way,” Jara said. 

Through learning about each other’s countries, they found some similarities. 

“[Vivien] shared about the German school system, some family traditions and food. Her family is originally from Poland, so we found out a lot of common things since I am also from a Slavic country,” Zaharieva said. “She could even understand some words when I spoke in Bulgarian with my daughter.”

They also found some differences. 

“The school system in Germany is different- the schools are smaller, and also it’s a lot more rigorous in some ways- a lot of things are chosen for you. In the U.S., we have the freedom with our electives and the difficulty of the courses we want to take,” Jara said. “Also, outside of education, culturally, I think there is a lot of freedom in Germany in some ways that we don’t have here in the U.S. and we also have freedoms that they don’t have.”

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Kutscha thinks that school in Germany is harder than it is in the United States. 

“I would say German school is pretty hard and in our exams, we don’t have multiple choice, we just have to write essays for like seven hours straight and we still don’t finish, so it’s pretty hard in Germany,” Kutscha said. 

While she has come to appreciate certain things about America, there are still others she prefers the German way.

“My favorite thing about America is probably the food. Just not the bread. You just have toast,” Kutscha said. “We have so much better bread in Germany.”

When she returns to Germany, Kutscha knows what she will tell her family and friends. 

“I would tell them probably that it’s really different,” Kutscha said. “I love the high school, and that I’m really going to miss all the people I met here.”

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provided by João Victor

Leaving Brazil, João Victor came to the United States for the 2021-2022 school year.

Long journey north lands in Frisco

More than 4,000 miles away from his home country of Brazil, junior João Victor is participating in a foreign exchange program and is spending the school year in another hemisphere. 

“I came to America to experience something different,” Victor said. “I wanted to experience new sports, places, food, and more.”

I came to America to experience something different. I wanted to experience new sports, places, food, and more

— Brazilian foreign exchange student João Victor

For senior Leonardo Lombardi, having another person his age living with him would be a new experience as he is an only child. 

“So, I am an only child, and in these past few years my parents have considered adopting,” Leonardo Lombardi said. “[And] hosting an exchange student was also put into the equation because we thought it would be a good experience.”

Staying with the Lombardi family, getting to the United States involved several steps. 

“The organization, Greenheart, made it very easy as far as the process,” host parent Bill Lombardi said. “[However], there is a long application you have to fill out, and you have to have an interview, and you have to get a background check. So, there is a lot of detail involved in getting approved.”

Besides the application process, the Lombardi family had to prepare themselves and their house to create a comfortable and welcoming environment. 

“The exchange student needs to feel comfortable that this is going to be a place where he will be able to do well and fit in,” Bill Lombardi said. “So, we wanted the house to be ready and us as a family to be ready spiritually, emotionally, and [financially].”  

Even though the process was intimidating and tough for Victor, he found himself starting to settle in his new home. 

“It was hard because I needed to work hard on my English to improve it and also COVID, so I didn’t know if I could come or not,” Victor said. “It was difficult, but now things are getting okay.” 

Living with Victor, Leonardo Lombardi believes that he has become accustomed to American society through his willingness to grow in knowledge. 

“From time to time, we may have to educate him on little things that Americans do and don’t do or say, just so he doesn’t come across as rude or invasive,” Leonardo Lombardi said. “But it has been easy to teach [him] because he’s always wanting to learn.” 

Educating himself and adapting to a whole new culture, Victor has noticed many stark differences compared to his home country, especially in education. 

“In my school, I couldn’t choose the subjects that I wanted,” Victor said. “We [had] to do [the classes given].” 

Aside from that, he has noticed that the teachers in the U.S. care more about you and your work. 

A reason for this differentiation is due to the student-teacher ratio in the countries. In Brazil, the average student-teacher ratio is 26 students per teacher. However, the average student-teacher ratio in the U.S. is 16 to one, allowing the student to have more time with the teacher to receive help and understanding. 

Because of his teachers’ patience, kindness, and open-mindedness, he has been able to adapt to his classes. 

“Sometimes it is difficult to understand [the class] because [the teachers] speak so fast and I don’t understand,” Victor said. “[But], because the teachers here are more kind and [concerned], they all have helped me.” 

Having Victor in her World History class, teacher Kristen Mayfield believes that he has been adjusting wonderfully. 

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“I think João has adjusted really well and seems to be getting along with fellow students,” Mayfield said. “I think it’ll [also] be nice for [João] to give insight into how [history] is talked about in [his] country versus how we talk about it here.”

Similarly, Bill Lombardi hopes his family can experience more Brazilian culture while allowing Victor to experience American culture. 

“We just wanted to give an opportunity for him and us as well to experience more about Brazil, and for him to experience more about the U.S. and see what America is like,” Bill Lombardi said. 

Even though Victor will be traveling back to his home country at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, he hopes to go back with more knowledge and new experiences. 

“I want to come back to Brazil knowing how to speak English fluently,” Victor said. “I want to make a lot of friends here and experience a lot of new things.”

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