Paola Arvelo and Dora Manzotti, both exchange students, have fun taking pictures together. Both from different programs they decided to leave their life at home to experience a year studying in the U.S. Photo By Paola Arvelo.

Exchange students come from all over the world to spend a semester or year abroad here in the U.S. These students come to experience a whole new culture and in many cases to practice a new language. Franklin is among the many high schools across the nation where some of these students come to study. By staying with host families from the community, they are able to experience the life of a teenager in another country. 

Depending on the program they travel with, some don’t know exactly where they will spend their trip until after they have turned in their application. Choosing the U.S, they could end up anywhere someone is able to host them. Dora Manzotti (12), who is here from Italy, did not pick Portland. Her program, Education First (EF), chose her city for her. “I really like green cities with lots of trees and I really enjoy the city I am in,” Manzotti says. Along with not knowing the city, they also do not know which school they will be going until after being assigned with a host family.

Michelle Moyer Westwood has been hosting students for the past 9 years. “I enjoy the kids, [and] I like listening to different things they do in their countries,” Moyer Westwood explains. Hosting means opening up your family to a student from across the world. “I started because I wanted a little diversity in the household,” Moyer Westwood continues. Students come and live with the host families and go to the neighborhood high school; some even go to the same school as their host siblings. “My host brother is at Franklin, too, so he told me about this school and how to get around,” Manzotti says. 

It’s not only about the opportunity to study here but also to explore the city and the culture of their home for the next year. Paola Arvelo (11) is here from the Dominican Republic with the program American Field Service (AFS). She likes Portland. “It’s weird, it’s chill and just nice to be here,” Arvelo says. Along with exploring the city with programs like AFS, you meet other exchange students from around the world. “I got to go to the beach with my friends [other exchange students] and other trips with them which was fun,” Arvelo explains. 

Not everyone will go on exchange, but Arvelo thinks it’s a great opportunity. “It’s different and an experience. You meet a lot of people and it’s just getting you out of your comfort zone,” Arvelo explains. She has known she wanted to do an exchange year either here or in England since she was 12 years old. “I’ve always wanted to do an exchange year and wanted to improve my English,” Arvelo says. Alejandra Caballero, who was here at Franklin for the first semester of the 2017/18 school year, says, “I wanted to learn the American culture and improve my English in the process.” 

Many different programs offer exchange years for both students in the U.S. and those in different countries, but only a few are accepted at PPS. Within their trip, these students will learn a lot about the country and the language. In Caballero’s case, “I learned that everyone is important, we are ambassadors of our country, city or school. So that’s why we should be nice and welcome people with open minds and hearts.” Traveling for a semester or a year can teach you a lot. 

“I wanted to be more independent, and since in my culture parents tend to be overprotective sometimes, this was the best way to figure out how to do things on my own,” Caballero concludes. Exchange years are disruptive to your life, moving to a new country, leaving your friends and family back home, and finally skipping a year of school back home. However, for many students these sacrifices are completely worth it.

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