New Dreams in a New Place

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Braden Dennis

Senior Gaia Scandella poses proudly in front of the Nixa eagle. “I love the fact that here there isn’t as much pressure in school and that I can find it enjoyable and interesting,” Scandella said.

Braden Dennis, Photography Editor

Foreign exchange students arrived at Nixa High School amid quarantines, lockdowns and travel advisories.
“These students receive a Nixa education and have an opportunity to enjoy and experience the American culture,” Scott Robinson, freshman counselor and foreign exchange program coordinator, said.
However, traveling abroad was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Typically [we have] eight to 10 students who are here all year,” Robinson said. “This year we have [five] full time students and two who were pushed back to Jan. 2021.”
Foreign exchange students have taken extra precautions and cautionary measures to ensure the safety.
“There are more medical criterias that must be met by the student,” Robinson said. “Some countries have closed their travel.”
Despite the odds, senior Gaia Scandella took the opportunity.
“I am from Italy — a small town in the mountains called Clusone which is [close] to Milan,” Scandella said.
Scandella said she adored the idea of travelling abroad for a year of education and decided it was something that she definitely wanted to do.
“Doing a year abroad was my biggest dream,” Scandella said. “I had to make a lot of sacrifices and efforts to achieve it. But, as my dad has always reminded me, ‘if you can dream it, you can do it.’ Now, I am living my best life.”
Although Scandella was ready to travel, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to put a halt to her dream.
“COVID-19 affected everything a lot,” Scandella said. “Two weeks before [leaving] I was almost losing hope because airports were closed and only having restricted flights.”
Scandella was able to get to her flight before things got worse.
“I received the mail with the departure date just four days before the airport closed,” Scandella said. “We had to follow the conditions and restrictions of the airport, but it was all worth it.”
Once Scandella arrived, she noticed a much different environment and atmosphere than back in Italy.
“I lived in a very small town and I used to have to walk everywhere,” Scandella said. “But here, everything is so huge. Streets, buildings, and I’m also surprised by how nice people are.”
One of Scandella’s favorite parts about her experience is being at the high school and adapting to a new education.
“I love Nixa High School,” Scandella said. “Everything is like I thought. The teachers are very available and nice, and it’s very organized and cautionary of the COVID-19 situation.”
At Scandella’s past school in Italy, her experience there was very different.
“Schools in the states are completely different from Italian ones,” Scandella said. “I attended a high level school and we usually have school for five hours a day six days a week, and then go home after school to study for another five to six hours.”
Although Scandella said she has a strong passion for studying abroad and being an exchange student, there are a few aspects of life back in Italy that she misses.
“The worst part is leaving your country, family, friends and having to make completely new ones and adapting to new changes and habits,” Scandella said. “But, once you overcome all those things, everything is easier.”
Scandella said she believes that the Foreign Exchange program will help her grow not only as a student and learner, but as a person.
“Being a foreign exchange student is like climbing a mountain. At first it’s hard, but once you overcome all the obstacles and the fears you have, you reach the top and feel like a champion,” Scandella said. “You grow and improve yourself in just 10 months. That’s what I like, you feel at home on both sides of the world.”
Although COVID-19 restricted a large majority of exchange students to the NHS, Scandella didn’t come alone.
Junior Marti Terricabras also traveled to the U.S. He is from a small town in Spain, near Barcelona.
“[We had] to wear our masks and wash our hands frequently, and our plane was full of exchange students only,” Terricabras said.
Terricabras said everything was new for him in the US.
“Everybody has been surprising,” he said. “The lifestyle of the US. has been very different than back home.”
Terricabras said he enjoys the thrill of new beginnings.
“I don’t know anyone and nobody knows me, so it’s almost essentially like I’m starting a new life, which is pretty cool,” he said.
Although Terricabras is taking pleasure in his new exchange student life, he still makes sure to communicate to his friends and family back home.
“I talk to my family about once a week on a call and at first everything was so new that I didn’t miss them too much,” he said.
Terricabras said he likes the atmosphere of the high school.
“I really like the high school as it’s very big and very cool to be in,” Terricabras said.
At first, Terricabras faced slight trouble adapting to his new school.
“The first week because of the language change made it a bit different, but it was okay in the end,” he said.
Terricabras notices significant changes and differences from the two schools he’s attended.
“The education system is very different,” Terricabras said. “In Spain it’s more memorizing things and throwing out exams, but here we don’t do as many difficult and challenging exams.”
Scandella and Terricabras said they are both looking forward to their year at NHS and have high hopes for their experience.
“Making new friends, living in a new family and getting in touch with a new and different culture, it’s like having two lives in one,” Scandella said.