The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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New year, new exchange students

A brief look into some of Bowie’s newest exchange students
Host Audrey Cullinane speaks with new foreign exchange students who discuss their experiences and challenges while living in America.
Every+year+Bowie+takes+in+several+exchange+students+from+various+countries+around+the+world.+These+students+come+to+America%2C+and+to+Bowie%2C+for+many+different+reasons.
Asher Hagan
Every year Bowie takes in several exchange students from various countries around the world. These students come to America, and to Bowie, for many different reasons.

Junior Giorgio Cocquio embraces his brother after his long time away, while hearing the stories of his brother’s travels in America, an idea starts to form in his mind.

Every year Bowie takes in several exchange students from various countries around the world. These students come to America, and to Bowie, for many different reasons.

“My brother did the experience in Pennsylvania last year,” Cocquio, an exchange student from Italy said. “He told me that it was beautiful, and he had the possibility to travel all over the United States and to make a lot of friends and firstly, because he wanted to learn better English. In Italy. It’s not so special, how we speak English. And so like, I thought, yeah, why not? I can afford it. And it will be a great experience based on what others have told me. So, I like to speak better English. I like to travel. I like to see every part of the world so why not?”

I wanted to drive a yellow school bus to school…I wanted to see how it is being an American girl in high school.

— Tynka Stefaniank, 11

For others, like junior Tynka Stefaniank from Poland, she wanted to experience what an American high school was like.

“I wanted to see what is in a bigger school,” Stefaniank said. “I wanted to drive a yellow bus to school and make relationships, and all of that. I wanted to see how it is like being an American girl in a high school.”

Across the world, there are many different agencies that help students go through the process of becoming an exchange student. In addition, every state in America has different laws and regulations for exchange students. In Texas, you have to be between the ages of five and 21 and have to pass a language proficiency test.

“I had to go to camp where we were reading the rules and everything to see how the U.S. is,” Stefaniank explained. “They prepare us mentally to show us how to go through these bad times that we will have during Christmas or something when we will miss and we will be homesick, etc. So it was hard for us to leave our family, but I can tell you that it’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it. So other than that, I had loads of paper to sign too. So lots of documents, lots of paperwork, etc.”

Despite all of this preparation, it is still difficult to adjust to a new school and a whole new country.

“The biggest change is the weather,” Stefaniank said. “In Poland, we don’t have these types of temperatures. So that’s the weather, but the other difference is about the people. I see that people are different. I don’t know how to describe it. I see just a difference between people in Poland and the people here. Like wearing pajamas to school is weird, and the flip flops and socks, etc.”

One thing that American public schools have that not many schools in other countries have are electives, and at Bowie, we have over 150 options. According to Austin ISD’s website, Bowie’s enrollment is also higher than any other high school in the district.

“I don’t know if it is because we are in a huge city, but this school is like 10 times mine,” Cocquio explained. “So in Italy, I have 300 students in my school. And the big difference is that here you can choose the subject that you will want to follow. In Italy you have math, Italian, English, philosophy, art, and PE, and you do all the subjects every time and you’re obliged to do them. And so you stay in the same class every week, every hour here and the teachers change the classes. And then we go to school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Saturday.”

In addition to the sheer mass of the school, Bowie has other things that are unique to the school and the district. One of these things is Flexible Instructional Time (FIT), a mandatory period that takes place every day after first period.

“I didn’t understand how the FIT worked,” Cocquio said. “So, like the first few days I was around the school, I didn’t see anybody and I was wondering why and someone stopped me and asked me ‘Oh, do you know that you have to? You’re supposed to be in FIT.’ And so then I learned and I understood in the first week how to get around the school because we don’t have that. We don’t have to change classes in Italy. It’s all in the same classroom.”

These exchange students are not all on their own however. Councilor April Guiffre is in charge of the “International ‘Dawgs” and helps guide them through their time in Bowie by setting up things like FIT sessions. Adapting to a new environment that you are not familiar with can be a difficult thing, but a lot of people would be willing to go through immense change to have a fulfilling experience.

“So yeah, I’m in the U.S.,” Cocquio said. “For me just being in the U.S. is a big thing for any European. We go on to the U.S. on vacation if you’re lucky and if you have the money. So being in the U.S. for a year is already a big, big experience for me.”

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