This is the next article in our series this year, ‘Opening our homes and minds: West Hartford’s AFS foreign exchange students and their host families.’
Interviewed by Anna Harris, AFS Youth Ambassador volunteer
Meet Alma from Sibiu, Romania. She is one of the seven AFS exchange students living in West Hartford this school year.
Hi, Alma! Tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m from Sibiu, which is a city in the Transylvania region of Romania. In Sibiu I go to a German school, so I’m actually trilingual in Romanian, German, and English. Here I have the most amazing host family, the Delgados, and they have two wonderful dogs, Pippa and Oliver. For me, the host family has been the best thing about coming here – I really consider them my family now.
I’m a senior at Conard. I am taking three computer science classes here – yes, because people told me that Conard is one of the best schools for computer science, so I wanted to take advantage of it. Also I’m taking acting – and I was so worried about it at first, but I could never do it in my home country! Now it’s my favorite class and I’m going to be in FROZEN – so everyone needs to come see it. [Editor’s Note: FROZEN opens March 10. Link for tickets can be found here.]
Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?
I really wanted to have that American high school experience like in the movies. I love American culture and wanted to see if it was similar to how I expected it to be. I’m proud to say that I’m one of 30 Romanian students who won the U.S. State Department’s FLEX scholarship out of over 1,000 applicants in Romania. And now I’m living my dream of being in the United States.
What are the biggest cultural differences between Romania and here?
Americans are really friendly and nice, where in Romania people aren’t so afraid to show when they have a bad day. I think it’s easier to make friends here than in Romania. I think that people are a lot more excited about things here and are definitely passionate about diversity. People in the U.S. also care a lot about feelings and making sure they are kind to others. Teachers are very very different, they really care about you and there is a lot of communication with teachers. I really love the teachers I have at Conard.
What have you liked about West Hartford and the U.S. so far?
The movies turned out to be right! I love riding the yellow school bus every day, eating in the school cafeteria, being part of the musical, and part of a sports team. I really like the weather and the changing of the seasons is so colorful. I love walking around and enjoying the scenery. And the air is clean and fresh. When I got to meet other exchange students who are hosted in other parts of the U.S., it reinforced how fortunate I am to live here in West Hartford.
What do you do outside of school here?
I’ve been volunteering with Healing Meals, which is part of the requirements for my scholarship, and I love it! I’ve met people from all over central Connecticut, and it’s been great to cook food for people together. At school I’m a part of a lot of groups like the yearbook committee and cross country team. I want to work in the computer science field and am also on the Math Team, which I enjoy a lot. I am also a part of my school’s drama club and going to be in the musical.
What would you like people reading this to know about:
Romania: Romania’s nature is absolutely gorgeous. There are mountains and lakes that make it look like you are in heaven. If you are an adventurous person you should definitely visit. There are also a lot of castles and fantastic food. And … Dracula lives nearby! 😉
Hosting an AFS exchange student: I hope you will choose a student from a place you haven’t visited and be excited to learn about their culture
Being an AFS exchange student: Don’t judge yourself too much. It is going to be hard, but relax! It takes time to adapt.
West Hartford has openings for up to eight volunteer host families this coming school year. If you are interested in hosting an exchange student, or if your high-school aged student would like to participate in an AFS exchange, please visit afsUSA.org. You can also reach out to local host families by contacting Jamie Cohen at [email protected].
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