Cenla exchange students experience American culture, schools

As the exchange students attend high school, they are experiencing life in the United States, while also sharing their culture with Cenla.
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Education First Foundation for Foreign Study is a program for foreign exchange students to experience school in the United States. Eight students from Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain are now in Central Louisiana for this school year.

Those students are hosted by local residents like Amy Pillarisetti, a host parent who said it is important to bring other cultures to the area.

“I, as an older person I would say, learn a lot,” said Pillarisetti. “I learn about them, and I think it’s very important for our town and for our students also here too.”

As the exchange students attend high school, they are experiencing life in the United States, while also sharing their culture with Cenla.

“That’s what I’ve been in the town for,” Pillarisetti said. “We are diverse people, but when people get together, they learn from each other.”

Pillarisetti is hosting Zoe Bouctod, a French foreign exchange student currently enrolled at Bolton High School.

“It’s another continent, it’s another life so I wanted to discover the culture,” said Bouctod.

The students have now been in school for a week and it has been so far, so good for them in America.

“So far, it’s been great,” said Albin Ljunggren, a Swedish foreign exchange student. “I’ve made a couple of friends, and I’m on the football team. So far, it’s been quite a good experience.”

But, there are of course adjustments as well, getting used to a brand-new country.

“People here speak faster, it’s not the same,” said Mauro Martinez, a foreign exchange student from Spain. “So, maybe the language, but with the subjects and making friends, I think it’s not more difficult than in Europe.”

The program is a result of Joji Miller’s efforts, as she is the international exchange coordinator for Education First. Her job is to make sure that the exchange students find suitable homes and get along with other students and host families.

“They’re excited, they’re full of hope for a successful year, and I want to make that difference for them,” Miller said. “I wanted to make sure their year goes great and for the host families too, that they enjoy being host families.”

Miller said having the global community in Cenla is positive.

“I’ve retired from my regular job and I said ‘you know, this is a good retirement thing.’ I enjoy it, I found my niche,” said Miller.

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