With the beginning of a new Franklin school year, there are new classes, new opportunities, and over 400 new students. In addition to all of the new local faces welcomed in this year, foreign exchange students from all over the globe have also made their way to Portland.
The process of preparing to travel to another country takes months and can be overwhelming. In addition to spending a good deal of money, students must fill out paperwork and attend orientations. However, they do not have to take on the task alone: non-profit exchange programs such as American Field Service USA (AFS) and Center of Educational Travel USA specialize in making it as easy as possible for intercultural experiences. In 2016-17, AFS sent 934 students abroad to complete learning programs ranging from two weeks to an entire school year. Of those 934, over half were awarded merit and/or need based scholarships.
For many foreign students, the biggest adjustment takes place on campus. In France, there is no school on Wednesday. In China, the school day begins at 7:30 A.M and ends at 5 P.M. In Germany, school begins at 7:30 and ends at 12. Because of this, the 8:15 to 3:15 school days, not including after school sports and activities, can be a far cry from normal. “My school days are so much different,” says Nieves Vallejo (10), an exchange student from Spain. “We don’t start school until 9, and we finish at 5.” Due in part to lunch being considered the most important meal of the day in Spanish culture, students in Spain are given a two-hour break from 1 to 3 to rest and come back ready to learn.
Class sizes are also much smaller. In Spain, it is not uncommon for an entire senior class to be under 30, compared to 374 at Franklin. Because of the small class sizes, there is no need for extensive campuses like the newly remodeled Franklin. Vallejo was taken aback at first: “It’s huge. I got lost a couple of times on my first day.”
Despite the considerable number of changes they face, the exchange students have been welcomed into the FHS community with open arms. “I haven’t encountered much that’s too hard to get used to,” says Gigi Groven (12), a student from Norway. “It’s quite the opposite, actually. I found it extremely easy to get used to the openness and hospitality, both at Franklin and in Portland.” Over a month into the school year, Groven is still eagerly anticipating what’s left to come: “Everything is new, there’s so much to see, and I’m generally excited for every day. I hope the feeling never goes away!”