The ABC’s of Foreign Exchange Students: America, Brazil and China
“It signifies safety…or peace. It’s flat, so it’s hard to tell,” Yuxuan Li told us, referring to the meaning of a Chinese character necklace. One of us had happened to wear one on the day that we interviewed HHS foreign exchange students Yuxuan Li and Joao Lemos. Joao (aka “John”) and Yuxuan (aka “Effie”) come from very different cultures, but they shared a common desire to study in America. We are lucky enough to have both of them at our school this year.
Joao Lemos is from Petropolis, Brazil where he lives the life of a normal teenager with his parents and two dogs, Luna and Titan. He is the youngest of three siblings who enjoys going to the movies, playing soccer, and going to the beach with his friends. Yuxuan Li come from Lishui, China, but attends a boarding school where she lives. She too enjoys going out with friends, seeing movies, and singing karaoke. She also likes to read and play the piano. On the weekends in China, she often goes home and has dinner with her parents, grandparents, and her uncle and his family.
As the four of us sat in the library, we talked about their impressions of America so far. They told us who their host families are: Joao is staying with the Curl family, while Yuxuan stays with the Burns family. Yuxuan told us that her best memory of America so far was finally meeting her host family at the airport after a twenty-hour flight. When we asked what the biggest differences were between their home countries and America, Joao replied, “Everything!” He said that one difference he noticed is that cities in his country aren’t divided into inner and suburban sections. Yuxuan said that in China most people live in apartments rather than houses. Both added that most traveling is by public transportation and that the legal driving age is eighteen. Compared to HHS, Yuxuan’s school (Hangzhou Foreign Language School) is much larger, having around 2,000 students. However, she added that this school hosts the sixth grade up through twelfth. Joao’s school is about the same size as HHS, but it is an elementary, middle and high school combined.
When we asked the two of them what their favorite type of sweet is, Yuxuan couldn’t make up her mind. “All of it!” She laughed. Joao expressed that he really enjoys Oreos. Yuxuan also told us that one of her favorite movies is the American film The Legend of 1900. Joao, on the other hand, is a big fan of Johnny Depp and especially likes the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. Joao and Yuxuan explained that they both enjoy a wide variety of music in many different languages. Most music played on radio stations in Brazil and China is in English, surprisingly. Yuxuan added that her leastfavorite genre of music is Rock n’ Roll, while Joao isn’t so crazy about the Beatles.
Among all the questions we asked Yuxuan and Joao, the one we were most eager to hear the answer to was, “What caused you to decide to come to America?” After all, they had both made major commitments in coming here as exchange students. Joao is spending a whole semester at HHS and Yuxuan is here for the entire year. However, in answer to the question, both stated that they thought coming to America would be a enriching experience. To us America might seem ordinary, but to the aspiring architect from China, and the aspiring chemical engineer from Brazil, our country was something they definitely wanted to experience. And after only a short time here, and some interesting memories to carry home, they both said they would love to come back; Yuxuan wishes to attend college here, and Joao to visit. It’s a wonderful experience to see how different cultures compare, interact, and coexist within walls of Hubbard High School.