Miramonte Welcomes Foreign Exchange Students

Alison Pietrykowski and Cassidy Waters, Staff Writers

Every year, students from around the world travel abroad to experience new cultures, practice foreign languages, and create life-long friendships.

This year, Miramonte welcomes four exchange students from Europe; Junior Ida Bergkvist from Sweden, Sophomore Fabienne Boesch from Germany, Senior Stepanka Jandova from the Czech Republic, and Junior Mirjam Kowallick from Germany.

These girls joined the Miramonte community at the beginning of this school year with high hopes for an exciting semester.

The girls have noticed many differences between their homes and the US.

“Everything is so much bigger here, the cars, the streets, the schools, even the food,” said Kowallick.

The girls agreed that the people here are a lot more open and friendly.

The current fashion in the United States also seems to differ greatly from the styles that are popular in Europe.The girls agree that it is easier to express their creativity with the large variety of clothing here.

“I went shopping in San Francisco the other day and I could have spent a week looking at all the shops,” said Boesch.

According to Bergkvist, people in Sweden put a lot more effort into their appearance, whereas here, we don’t try as hard to be “fashionable.”

The weather in Lamorinda is far different from the weather in Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. All of the girls commented on how warm Orinda is. Because the weather here is so much warmer, many of the girls commented on the lack of clothing.

“In Germany, we can’t wear short-shorts or crop-tops to school,” said Boesch.

Bergkvist also brought up the fact that it’s hard to decide what to wear because it’s cold in the morning and then towards the afternoon it gets a lot warmer.

Another thing, Bergkvist, Boesch, Jandova, and Kowallick all agreed on was how much they miss their family and friends. With up to a nine hour time difference and loads of school work to be done, the girls have trouble finding time to Skype with their loved ones. Fortunately they’ve found ways to keep in touch almost every weekend.

Not only are exchange programs beneficial for the student traveling abroad, but also for the host family. Miramonte junior Meghan Marks and her family are hosting Bergkvist, their third foreign exchange student.

Hosting an exchange student often inspires others to travel abroad.

“On the years that we don’t travel abroad and experience another culture, it’s the perfect way to bring culture to us,” said Marks.

The Marks first got involved in the foreign exchange program when a local family’s vacation schedule got in the way of their hosting time and asked the Marks to host in their place.

“I’m not sure what made us want to partake in the program, it just happened,” said Marks “But it’s been great and I’m so glad we have.”

Marks highly recommends hosting a foreign exchange student and has made many unforgettable memories.

Ida Bergkvist

Year: Junior

Hometown: Örnsköldsvik, Sweden

Host Family: The Marks family

Duration of stay: Ten months

School life back home: 16 classes, with a different schedule.

Reason for coming: To experience a different kind of life and improve her English.

First thing she noticed: How cold it can be inside; she has to go outside to get warmer. Also how the food is super-sized.

Interesting tidbit: In Sweden, Bergkvist lived in a secluded wood-like area. One of the things she misses the most is the freedom to “bumble around.”

Fabienne Boesch

Year: Sophomore

Hometown: A small town near Hamburg, Germany

Host Family: The Landau family

Duration of stay: One semester

School life back home: Stays in one classroom all day.

Reason for coming: Interested in traveling and had always wanted to come to the US, it was a dream come true.

First thing she noticed: There are a lot more cars here.

Interesting tidbit: Boesch is not the only one of her friends that traveled across the country this semester. Her four best friends are also participating in exchange programs. Two of her friends are in Canada and two others are in France.

Stepanka Jandova

Year: Senior

Hometown: Czech Republic

Host Family: The Thompson family

Duration of stay: One semester

School life back home: 14 subjects with a different schedule everyday, longer school days.

Reason for coming: Won a scholarship contest.

First thing she noticed: How loud it is (she sometimes gets headaches from the noise).

Interesting tidbit: People in the Czech Republic never wear lounging clothes to school (yoga pants, sweats, pajamas, etc.).

Mirjam Kowallick

Year: Junior

Hometown: Mūnster, Germany

Host Family: The Schoenbrunner family

Duration of stay: One semester

School life back home: School is easier for her in Germany, Miramonte gives a lot more homework.

Reason for coming: Wanted to improve her English and have new experiences.

First thing she noticed: How much bigger everything is here (cars, streets, schools, etc.).

Interesting tidbit: She initially wanted to go to Campo (her host brother is a sophomore there) but they were not offering an exchange program.