Coming this year for the first time are students from Slovakia, and Tunisia. There are also students from other countries who are returning from last year. Becoming an international student provides a chance to experience different cultures and learn about foreign countries, as well as to become globally aware. But it's not all sunshine and daisies. Being away from home for so long can make anyone homesick, even with the ability to call or Skype their families. Upon arriving in America all of these students have been welcomed into another family. Twelve of our international students live with host families this year and the other 11 live at Murphy House, where they enjoy more independence but still have common activities and gather as a family. Murphy house is located in downtown Poulsbo and is run by Valerie Allen-Keane.
One of the students living in Murphy House this year is 11th grader Yaochan Li. Penelope, as she likes to be called, is from Chengdu, Sichuan, China and this is her first year at WSA. She's here with the Cambridge International Program, she decided to come to America because she liked the school system. Since coming here, one of the things that she has been able to do that she wouldn't have been able to do at home is go rock climbing with her classmates. Just like Penelope, Tamara Kocurova is at WSA for the first time. Tami is living with WSA Office Manager Angie Gangi and her family. Tami is a 10th grader from Bratislava, Slovakia and she's here with the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE). Tenth grader Diep (Demi) Phug is here with CIEE from Hanoi, Vietnam. “Sometimes I miss my family and Vietnamese food so much, but I always can get over it because my life here is so great with my host family, friends and teachers,” says Demi.
Returning to us is senior Hossein Farahmand. This year he's here with a student F1 visa rather than as part of an exchange program. Though he faced some logistical troubles getting here from his hometown of Shiraz, Iran, Hossein has returned to join our senior class and graduate from WSA. Coming from Askim, Norway, senior Bjorn Jalborg is here with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). For Bjorn, “the hardest part is probably being away from your friends for so long, but then again, it will feel even better meeting them when you get back home.” In addition to Hossein, we've also had the pleasure of welcoming back 11th grader Soobeen Heo from Daejeom, South Korea. Last year she was hosted by Director of Admissions Lisa Gsellman and her family, but she is now living at the Murphy House. Last year she was here with CIEE, this year she changed her visa and is here independently. For Soobeen, the biggest difference between houses are the rules, “I feel more free because before I had to do some activities with my host family but now I have more free time.”
Last year WSA had its first Turkish international student, Sıla Önder, and although Sıla could not return, WSA was pleased to welcome Muhammet Özcan, a senior from Istanbul, Turkey who is here with the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study. Just like Demi, food was a big difference for Muhammet and he says it was the biggest cultural shock. “Without Turkish bread, life is so hard. Eating from different cuisines, however, were amazing.”
Although they may be far from their homelands and families, the international students at WSA seem to have found another home and family here in America. And just as they learn from us, we learn from them. Whether it's a silly word in a different language, a new food, or a new holiday; our cultures are woven together stitch by stitch. Even if they are only here a year, the friendships created continue to blossom, and remain with us forever. Jalga! Hade! Tạm biệt! Čau! Khodafez! Güle Güle! Bye bye!