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Episode 86: Students from Hong Kong and Spain Talk About Their Foreign Exchange Experience

One student traveled more than 7,000 miles from Hong Kong and another 5,400 miles from Spain to have the experience of a lifetime, living in Utah and going to school in Jordan School District.

On this episode of the Supercast, we hear the fascinating stories of two Bingham High School students participating in the Foreign Exchange Program.

Find out how the experience has changed their lives and what they grew to love about Utah and their time in the United States.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. One student traveled more than 7,000 miles from Hong Kong and another 5,400 miles from Spain to have the experience of a lifetime living in Utah and going to school in Jordan School District. On this episode of the Supercast, we hear the fascinating stories of two Bingham High School students participating in the Foreign Exchange Program. Find out how the experience has changed their lives and what they grew to love about Utah and their time in the United States. We are here in the Alumni Room at Bingham High School to speak with two of our foreign exchange students here in Jordan School District. Jordan School District supported a large number of students who had been scheduled to come here and attend school with us. And despite the pandemic, we were able to make things work. There were some cuts in funding at the State level, but we were excited to still offer a spot for some students to live here and learn here. So we're excited to get to know them and I'll let them introduce themselves. Let's start with you, Kenny.

Student:
My name is Kenny and I'm from Hong Kong. I'm 16.

Student:
My name is Sophia and I'm from Spain and I'm also 16 years old.

Anthony Godfrey:
And then we have Heather Ellis here from Bingham High School. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Teacher:
Hi, I'm Heather. I teach German and Spanish here and I was an exchange student myself in Spain, Chile and Germany throughout the years. So that's why I teach foreign languages and like to be involved with exchange students.

Anthony Godfrey:
And as I said, I'm Anthony Godfrey, the Superintendent. And I actually lived in France for a year. It wasn't a foreign exchange thing, but my dad taught French here and we exchanged homes and jobs with an English teacher in France. So I lived in France when I was in sixth grade and my whole family moved over there. So we've all had an experience like this. Tell me what surprised you most about school when you got here.

Student:
Americans in Spain, we just stayed in the same class and the teachers are the ones that came to your class. So you're always with the same people. So my class, my friends in school, I have been with them for like 9-10 years, maybe 12. I don't know. But you got super close because you spend the whole day with them. But it's so fun that here you change classes every hour and you have eight different classes with completely different people and you get to know a lot of people. Also, in Spain, the schools are more studies and then you get out and then you go do whatever you like. But here you can do both. You can study and then if you like playing soccer, you play soccer in the school team. And it's all this team work or spirit. That is something I think is really cool.  I really like it.

Anthony Godfrey:
It sounds like you've had a great experience here at Bingham.

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. How about for you, Kenny? What surprised you most about school here in the States?

Student:
What surprised me most is no uniform. In Hong Kong, we have to wear a uniform everywhere at school, but here we just have to wear your casual clothes. Also in Hong Kong, we can't change. We can't choose our class. We can choose our subject, but here we can just take any subjects. They have a lot of subjects I can choose from. And same as Sophia said, I can be in different classes and I can see different people in classes in here.

Anthony Godfrey:
What surprised you about Utah itself when you got here?

Student:
So when they told me I was coming to Utah, I heard about it, but I didn't even know where that is. And then I came here and now I'm in love with Utah. I love Utah. I would live here. When I'm older, I would love, love to live here. And the people in here are super nice. I love Utah. Everything is so cool in here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Great! Kenny, you can be honest with me.

Student:
I like Utah here and before I came here, I know Utah because I always watch NBA games, Utah Jazz. I get to watch Utah Jazz later this weekend. So I'm excited.

Anthony Godfrey:
Are you going to a game?

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, that's fantastic.

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
So for an NBA fan to be in Utah and get to go to a game is great! I see, for those listening at home, you're wearing a Jazz hoodie. So actually you have adopted the uniform of the high school student in Utah with a Jazz hoodie. So to be a Jazz fan and get to come to Utah, that's pretty exciting.

Student:
Yeah. Yeah. It's really exciting. And here, all of the people are so good and so nice. And the weather here, it's a little bit dry for me and that's strange for me. It's a little bit dry and it's so cold. Winter in Hong Kong, we don't like have a super cold winter, but here with 30 degrees , I'm like, oh my, I don't know.

Anthony Godfrey:
Just so everyone knows, after Kenny said the word cold, he put his hands up in his sleeves and then he rubbed them together because he instantly got cold just thinking about it. So at least things will be warmer and more humid for you when you go back to Hong Kong. All right. Now tell me what you're going to miss about America when you return home.

Student:
I will miss my friends and my host family, because I've had a really good experience. I made good memories with them.

Anthony Godfrey:
How about you?

Student:
I would say also my friends that I made here. The basketball team here, and then the high school is so different to Spain. I love coming to school here. Every morning when my host brothers say, Oh yeah, we have like a wake up. I'm like, no, I want to go to school. And they're like, you're so weird. It's so fun. You have to come. And it's not even as hard as Spain. You still learn a lot, but the methods they use in Spain are harder. You can hear and it's like fun. And you get to do the fun stuff at the high school. And then my basketball team, my friends, and then my host family. I'm really, really close to the mom. I'm super close to her. And then everyone in the family is so nice. I'm going to miss them a lot.

Anthony Godfrey:
You both talked about missing your host family and the friends that you've made here. Do you have plans on keeping in touch with them?

Student:
So I really wanted to stay another year here because I'm a sophomore. I wanted to come back for junior year, but then I talked with my family in Spain and they also miss me a lot. So they said, I think it's better if you just come here for junior year and then maybe we can see if you can go back for senior year. And I talked with the family and they said we asked them. So if I come back, I will go with back with them. And then I also told my friends and they said I should come back for junior year. But my family misses me, so they said, well then, senior year. So  I will just Facetime them all the time on, keep in touch with social media and all that stuff.

Anthony Godfrey:
There are a lot of good methods for keeping in touch. Are you planning on having them come to Spain perhaps?

Student:
Well, yeah, I also said that they were coming to spend some time, so they better.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. I would say so too. How about you, Kenny? What plans do you have?

Student:
Oh, I don't have any sense yet. My host family is telling me that they will like come to Hong Kong sometimes and I will come to you sometimes.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the things that you've missed since you've been here in the States about Hong Kong?

Student:
For example, is there food, noodles, rice noodles and our Hong Kong food .

Anthony Godfrey:
Kenny, is there any place here that has rice noodles that you would endorse that you say are worth eating that have maybe felt a little bit like home?

Student:
Never been into a real Chinese restaurant. But I think I have been to, I forgot the name. Panda Express.

Anthony Godfrey:
So  you're endorsing Panda Express right now as a little taste of home. Is that right?

Student:
Yeah. Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
All right. Kenny, you're full of surprises here.  I'm going to grab myself some orange chicken on the way home. That sounds good. Sophia. How about you? What do you miss for about Spain?

Student:
I mostly miss my family, my little sister and my brother. I also miss my friends, but when you're living here, it's just like you don't get to actually realize, so you don't miss them as bad as you will think you miss them. I mean, you still miss them and it's hard sometimes. On some days I wish I was in a Spain right now, but I don't know. I really miss my family and my friends. And then food probably.

Anthony Godfrey:
I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Kenny and you're not going to tell me some restaurant that I've normally eaten at.

Speaker 2:
Okay, thank you. And your restaurant, like with actual Spanish food. One time I tried to made a Spanish meal here and it didn't go really well either. So I really miss it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. So tell me about that experience a little bit.

Student:
So there's a typical meal and a Spain named frittata. And it's kind of like potatoes on eggs, but it's all together. And I tried to do it one time, but it didn't really work. It didn't taste really good. I mean, it was okay, but it wasn't the best.

Anthony Godfrey:
The potatoes need to be grown in Spain for it really to work. Is that right? Okay. So food and family and friends, that's pretty much what you guys are missing. Is that right?

Students:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now you miss food from Hong Kong and Spain. What food are you going to miss from America? Corn dogs, fry sauce, Cafe Rio. What are you going to miss?

Student"
That's hard to choose.

Anthony Godfrey:
Come on Kenny. We great food here. Something you're going to miss.

Probably ham.

Anthony Godfrey:
Ham? So is ham not a part of the scene in Hong Kong?

Student:
No, we eat ham in Hong Kong like that.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. You liked the bone in the ham, like the big time holiday ham?

Student:
Yeah. Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Are you going to have lots of spiral cut honey baked before you go?

Student:
Yeah. I'll ask my host family to do that.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's a really good idea. Okay. Sophia, how about you?

Student:
Well, I'm probably going to be sweets because we don't have those kind places in Spain. My family loves sweets. So I'll miss that. And then also my host mom cooks really good. So I'm going to miss that.

Anthony Godfrey:
You're just going to miss that home cooking.

Student:
I love Chick-fil-A and we don't have Chick-fil-A in Spain. It's like probably my favorite one. And then In and Out probably.

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow. You are listing off some good stuff. I'm getting very hungry talking with you guys right now. Kenny, are you? I saw you shake your head. Are you a Chick-fil-A, In and Out fan?

Student"
Yeah. I like Chick-Fil-A.

Anthony Godfrey:
There's something special about that peanut oil, isn't it? Oh, you guys can be entrepreneurs. You could start your first Chick-Fil-A in Spain. Kenny, you could get that ham rolling. Just throwing ham sandwiches at lunchtime. You guys will be millionaires.
Okay. So let's talk with Ms. Ellis about her experience. You lived in Spain as a foreign exchange student?

Teacher:
My junior year of high school in Spain.

Anthony Godfrey:
And tell me about that experience, how what impacted your life?

Teacher:
Goodness gracious. It was the thing that most changed my entire life direction. I feel after spending a year in Spain, I knew I wanted to continue learning foreign languages. At that point I knew that I would continue seeing the world, which I have done for the rest of my life. I felt so inspired too by my experience that I wanted to share it with others. And largely, that's why I became a foreign language teacher.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you teach Spanish and German. That's quite a combination.

Teacher:
Yeah. I teach both. As part of my master's program, I actually had to choose a second language in which to become fluent. And I wanted something that was vastly different from Spanish because I wanted to know if I really had a knack for learning a language or if it was just Spanish. So I chose German, largely because my ancestry is very Germanic. And so I went and worked and lived over in Germany and came back and started teaching it.

Anthony Godfrey:
How fortunate to spend significant time in three different countries. I've come to understand that learning a third language, your second language interferes more with that learning than your first language sometimes. Was that your experience, you compare the German to Spanish a lot as you're learning?

Teacher:
Yes. Luckily I don't do that anymore at all, but yes I did. And I do like, we try to go, except for COVID, obviously, to Germany and Spain every year. So usually we spend about a month, every summer over there.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. That's fantastic. So that type of dedication, then it gets refreshed. I went to France a couple of years ago. And even though I lived there, it fades. And then when you get there, it sharpens right back up. So Sophia, I think your Spanish will come back to you quickly.

Student:
You feel like you've lost a little bit of it. Yeah. And then also, I'm from the North. So I speak Basque because I live in the Basque country and I'm going to be lost next year.

Anthony Godfrey:
Teach me some Basque slang.

Student:
Eskerrik asko. That means thank you. Yeah, that's pretty good. Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
And that has a nice ring to it. I like that. My favorite word in, I have two favorite words in French. They're both names are fruits. One is pamplemousse, which is grapefruit and l'ananas, which is pineapple.

Student:
Yeah. I also know a little bit of French, a little bit.

Anthony Godfrey:
Do you? Kenny, teach me a favorite word of yours.

Student:
Cantonese? Do1 Ze6, that's mean thank you.

Anthony Godfrey
Okay. Yeah. Did I do okay?

Student:
Yeah. Gotcha.

Anthony Godfrey:
So this turned into a career for you.

Teacher:
Yeah, it did. Honestly I was planning on going to law school and I was studying for the LSAT and at the time the principal contacted my university, and asked who the best masters candidate was to come and start teaching. And the Dean gave them my name. And I said, okay, I'll come do it for a year. And I've been here ever since.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's really amazing how these experiences, when you look back, you don't realize what a crossroads it is at the time, and you look back and it's a life changing moment. And do you think that living in another country and learning another language helps you empathize with others and maybe connect with people in a different way?

Teacher:
Absolutely. On every level.  I don't think you can furthermore, truly understand the culture or people truly, unless you speak the language, you can understand a portion, a depth, but not that profound of a depth, unless you are fluent in the language. But that can start now. I mean, the immersion programs that we have are fantastic opportunities as districts. So I think that we need to keep it going and highlight the importance.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. It's, it's been a real emphasis for us, and I'm excited that we have that opportunity available for students. All right. Let's talk about the English language. What are some of, do you have a favorite word in the English language or a slang that you learned?

Student:
I like no cap.

Anthony Godfrey:
No cap. That's good.

Student:
And low key.

Anthony Godfrey:
No cap and low key. Okay. How about you, Kenny?

Student:
I don't have a specific word for me.

Anthony Godfrey:
I know that this is an old word now, but I really like ruining words for my son when he was in high school. And I say, man, that is so lit. It's extremely lit. And then all of a sudden he can't use it anymore because I have taken possession of it.

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
When we come back, advice for students considering being part of the Foreign exchange Program.

Break:
It is one of the most prestigious academic achievement programs available for high school students. And we're proud to say it's coming back to the Jordan School District. We're talking about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which will be located at West Jordan High School. The IB Program supports academic achievement for students at the very highest level. IB diploma courses are taken during a student's junior and senior year in high school. All students are invited to consider the IB program for next year. There are no prerequisite for IB and interested students in the middle school can start preparing now. Students with the IB diploma have a better chance at getting into some of the most prestigious universities in the world. For more information or to find out if your teen is a good candidate for IB visit http://ib.jordandistrict.org, or call West Jordan High School.

Anthony Godfrey:
We are the middle of April. How does it feel that your time in America is drawing close to an end?

Student:
For me, it's like a thing that is kind of sad because of the pandemic going and we can't do anything. We have like lots of things like your friends. But I still enjoy to being in United State here and Utah and being a foreign exchange student to learn English and learn their culture.

Anthony Godfrey:
How about you Sophia?

Student:Well, it's kind of sad. It's almost over. It goes by so fast and you never actually realize that you're here and that you're leaving here. I have already been here for eight months and it's kind of sad, but at the same time, I'm kinda excited to be with my family and friends again. But I'm basically really sad to leave.

Anthony Godfrey:
How much have you seen family and friends, not counting Zoom, since you got here in the States?

Student:
I haven't seen them at all.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's what I thought. I just wanted to be sure. How about you, Kenny?

Student:
No.

Anthony Godfrey:
So it's a mix of missing the friends that you've made here, missing the time that you've had in the States, but I'm sure you're very excited to see family and friends again.

Student:
Yeah, of course. In my country, there are my friends and that I'm excited to meet my new friends here also.

Anthony Godfrey:
Ms. Ellis, tell me about the experience for the students here at Bingham. What does it do for them to have foreign exchange students here?

Teacher:
I feel like these students opened the world to our students as well. Cultures and countries, perhaps that these students have never even heard of, quite frankly. Some of the countries being very, very small. We've had kids before come from Tunisia, for example, and our students hadn't heard of that country. And so from then on, they will associate that country with that student ambassador who represented that country. And the kids who come over are such great kids. Our students can learn so much about their languages, their cultures, and then inevitably they will, a lot of them, go over and visit their friends in the future and can keep those connections and bridges alive and have a continued interest in visiting the world after that. I really feel like it opens our own students' eyes and it's just something that's so valuable for our kids to have here. And this interaction is awesome.

Anthony Godfrey:
The more experiences you can have, the more rich your connection will be with the world. What advice would you give to anyone who's thinking about being a foreign exchange student or having their child be a foreign exchange student? What advice would you give them?

Teacher:
I would say that you need to get rid of any expectations you might have about your experience and be open to whatever might happen. Whatever type of situation you might find yourself in, accept it and embrace it. And also, if there are opportunities available to you that are legal or appropriate, to take advantage of them, to not let any opportunity slip by, because this opportunity in high school of being exchanged only comes around once typically. For most people, it happens just once in high school. So I would say grab it if it's at all of interest, to grab it. There are lots of us who can help you look into different programs.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you, Sophia. What advice would you give?

Student:
I would say that if you have the opportunity to go, whether if it's like the United States or for even Ireland or England, I would say, just go for it. It's hard to think about it at first, because you're  going to a whole other country. You don't know anyone. Maybe you're not that fluent in the language. You're scared. You're going to leave your family and friends and all that stuff. But it's the best experience you will ever have. And you kind of grow, you actually grow as a person. You get to be a better person. You just change a lot, for good. And it's the best experience ever.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. Thank you, Kenny.

Student:
I think you had to be open-minded when you come here, because you will meet a lot of people in here that you don't know, and you are speaking a completely different language and you came here and you will like meet a lot of people and know each other. You have to be aggressive.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. Yeah. You have to be willing to work to get to know people and get to learn the language. Like you said, Sophia, and by the way, I have to say, I am so impressed with each of you. You speak very well at no cap. And did I use that right?
Okay, good. All right. But you guys are awesome. It's been a real pleasure talking with all of you. I'm so glad to hear Ms. Ellis, with your experience and being able to ignite that interest in other cultures in our students here at Bingham. So thanks for spending the time and I wish you safe travels and lots of Chick-fil-A in your future.

Thanks for joining us for another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you after.

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