New Experiences Far From Home


Kenzie Denney, Staff

When living in a small, homey, and primarily American southern town such as Ozark, it is often easy to fail at observing the many different and peerless cultures of our unique world. Welcoming foreign exchange students into our town has allowed us to be exposed to new traditions. 

This year, because of more lenient covid restrictions, Ozark has housed more foreign exchange students than last year. There are a total of seven exchange students compared to last year’s three. Nicholas Fernandez De Pinedo and Vasilisa Novakovic are just two of our new students. 

Nicholas is originally from Spain and got here this summer on July 29. While he’s here, Nicholas is going to play on the boy’s basketball team and boy’s soccer team. And even though being an exchange student wasn’t his idea, he was still ready for the new experiences that it brought. 

“Well, it wasn’t my idea to be an exchange student, it was my father’s. One of his friends had a son that did this program and it was really cool. He thought it would be an experience that I would never forget. And he liked that it would help me learn English and become more fluent. I really like that I’m always learning new things and experiencing new things. I’ve met a lot of new people, too,” said Nicholas. 

Moving from Spain to America has been a cultural shock to Nicholas. In his country, the use of cars is very sparse so seeing tons of them on the streets contrasts with what he’s used to. 

“The cars are one of the biggest cultural differences between America and Spain. There isn’t anyone here on the streets walking; only cars are used. In Spain, you can ride your bicycle from one part of the city to another, you can walk, and there is even public transportation. But here, there isn’t any of that and it is very different from what I’m used to,” said Nicholas.

Much like Nicholas, Vasilisa has also learned many new and surprising customs of America. She came from the country Montenegro, which has a significantly different culture than the United States. 

“School has been my favorite part so far. Everything is just so different. From the teachers to the classes to the students, it’s all different. I love that I can take whatever classes I want. Back home, we have to take the classes that are given to us, so being able to pick makes my classes way more interesting. The teachers here are also way more helpful and more friendly,” said Vasilisa. 

While Vasilisa has thoroughly enjoyed being a foreign exchange student, there have been a few challenges that have expressed themselves. 

“Being far away from my family, friends, and country has been really hard because I miss that feeling when you are somewhere that you’re familiar with. It’s definitely been difficult adjusting, but I’m enjoying my time here,” said Vasilisa.

 Opening our town to foreign exchange students has not only allowed for exposure to other cultures, but it has also revealed our life and customs to others.