Their international experience began with a curiosity about other cultures, languages, and places. Now, four foreign exchange students are realizing their dreams of an American education at Harlingen CISD.
Astrid Skjoedt from Denmark, Anastasia Gobbi from Italy, Hang Ly from Vietnam, and Unnabest Nithithanatkul from Thailand are seniors at Harlingen High School and are currently attending school in person.
“I have always been fascinated by the U.S. and your culture over here, and that is why I wanted to experience it,” Astrid Skjoedt said.
There are many different types of foreign exchange programs, but generally, they all require filling out paperwork, taking tests, and completing other preparations to have the opportunity to study across seas.
“I just looked at them and found the one that was best for me,” Skjoedt said. “I had to interview me to make sure I was in the right mindset for it and that I was fit for traveling over here. I also had to complete an application where I talked about myself, my interests, and my family.”
Each experience through a foreign exchange program is unique. Although foreign exchange students don’t get to choose exactly where they will be placed, these four girls all ended up at HCISD.
For Unnabest Nithithanatkul, the best part is the overall experience.
“I like how the schools understand the students and take care of us,” Nithithanatkul said. “I got a lot of good experiences here and I also got a lot of experience talking with using my second language with a new accent, and that was all wonderful.”
Hang Ly appreciates the wide variety of choices when it comes to choosing classes and electives.
“At Harlingen High School my favorite thing is I can study subjects that I have never studied at school in Vietnam such as Marketing, Dance, Psychology, and Economic Entrepreneurship,” Ly said.
Anastasia Gobbi has found an interest in the competitive edge of athletics.
“My favorite thing about HHS so far is sports,” Gobbi said. “Even if this year it is hard to experience the school spirit due to the COVID-19 restrictions, I still think that school sports are amazing. Unluckily in Italy we only have clubs, so we’re not as competitive as everybody is here.”
Astrid Skjoedt loves the students and the people.
“I really like that everybody is really friendly, and they like to talk,” Skjoedt said. “They are interested in my culture as well as they are in sharing their culture, and I just find that really nice.”
When asked what they missed the most from home, most of them agreed that it was food, but family was also a popular answer.
“I miss my older sister when she drives me to hang out, and I also miss afternoons sitting at my grandma’s house,” Hang Ly said.
Although they all feel a little homesick, these foreign exchange students are making the best of their time left in Harlingen.
“I comfort myself thinking that all of my friends and my family will be there waiting for me when I go back,” Anastasia Gobbi said. “In the meantime, I try to make the best with my time here. I would encourage everyone to try this type of experience because it really makes you grow up and discover sides of you that you didn’t know you had. It also offers the possibility to learn new languages, discover a new culture, and meet amazing people.”