The Opportunity of a Lifetime: State High and Foreign Exchange Students Study Abroad


Nogueira and her friends at a New York orientation course after arriving in the United States

Rena Li and Jacqueline Lawrence

Foreign Exchange Students Come to State High

Rena Li

The beginning of the 2019-2020 school year holds many different meanings for high school students. For some, it means a monumental transition from middle school to high school. For some, it means stepping out of a comfort zone to try new clubs and sports. But for others, like the exchange students who came to State High as part of the Study Abroad program, it means attending a high school in a foreign country with a completely different culture.

The decision to study abroad is no small decision. Living away from family and friends, entering unfamiliar environments, and language barriers are all factors that must be considered. Although traveling to a new country can be nerve-wracking, Ana Nogueira, a junior from Madrid, Spain, wasn’t fazed.

“I wanted to do this exchange because apart of improving my English [sic], I thought it was a great opportunity to get to know new people, and of course, how’s everyday life in a different country [sic],” Nogueira said. The experience of entering a new school is different from country to country; between Spain and American schooling systems, there are bound to be many differences.

“Probably the place where I find the biggest differences [sic] is the high school,” Nogueria said. “State High is huge. My high school in Spain has around 70 students per year. It’s in the centre [sic] of Madrid so it’s even small compared to the ones in Spain. Nothing next to this,”

“What I like the best here are the amount of electives and different levels there are for each subject. In Spain, we only have 2-3 electives. Everybody in the class goes in the same math, biology or english level. And of course, we don’t have classes as baking or guitar [sic].”

In addition to having a wide range of classes to chose from, another aspect of school that American high school students may take for granted is school sports. “Here there are much more to choose [sic], they vary depending on the season and they are taken in a more competitive way, what I think is really cool [sic],” Ana said.

Traveling abroad has also allowed Ana to experience unique American traditions. “Since I arrived, mostly everything was different and so, new,” Ana said. “But the one thing that was completely new for me, was having smores when I went camping with my host family. It may not sound like such a big thing, but in Spain, we never have those [sic] so I didn’t even know what they were. Now that I’ve tried them, I don’t understand why we don’t have any…”

As for her favorite experience, Nogueira detailed a memory from her initial arrival in the States. “My best experience was probably when I arrived in the US. My exchange organization [sic] had an orientation course in NY for three days with other students who were also going to be here for the school year. It was pretty fun and really just an excuse for doing tourism,” she said. As she adjusts to the State High environment, Nogueira is excited for what the rest of her trip will bring and looks forward to celebrating Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas with her host family.

State High Students Return from Exchange

Jacqueline Lawrence

Exchange students from foreign countries were not the only ones who embarked on the opportunity of a lifetime though. Many students back at State High for the 2019-2020 school year also had the chance to experience the foreign exchange program during the past year or summer.

Kaden Litzinger, a current senior at State High, was one such student. “I spent 10 months in Formosa, Argentina,” Litzinger said. “I felt very safe, I feel as if there is a lot of misconception with the safety there but I felt safe and well. I experienced a bit of culture shock, in South America people are a lot more touchy with each other when greeting you. In America, people rarely ever touch.”

Parker Kingship, a senior, came back from Argentina this year. “School was cool but very, very different from school here,” Kingship said. “School started at 7:30 every morning and ended at 1:45 ( I know, it was awesome!). The lifestyle of Americans is just nonstop and frantic, where Argentinians know well how to just relax and focus on the here and now.”

Anisha Prabhu, junior, studied abroad in Amman, Jordan. “I chose to be an exchange student so I could learn a new language (Arabic) and learn about a new culture,” Prabhu said. “My perspective of the world really changed on this trip, and it helped me to understand the relations in the middle east a little better. The people are very peaceful and loving, and I loved getting to experience the culture.”

Studying in a different country is a great way to be immersed in new and exciting cultures, and State High has many Study Abroad and Gap year opportunities for interested students. For more information about the State High Exchange Program, visit the State College Area High School Counseling webpage.