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Coming to America

By: Emma Partridge

DOVER – Imagine stepping off a plane and taking your first steps on American soil. You don’t speak very much English and you don’t have any friends or family with you. You’ve taken the opportunity of a life time, and will be living in America for the next year. Welcome to the outlook of foreign exchange students everywhere.

Every year students from around the world travel to different countries to discover what it’s like to see the rest of the world. Dover High School is fortunate enough to have foreign exchange students join our New England school.

The programs assign a town or city to the student, depending on the criteria the students ask for.

Since DHS already has thousands of students, the school can only register two students per year.

This year, those two students are HoSung Won and Max Pagnoulle.

Won, a sophomore, is from Pyeongtaek, South Korea. After attending a foreign language school, Won’s parents suggested that he try enrolling in a foreign exchange program that could bring him to America.

Although he never formally learned English before he decided to come to America, Won grew up watching Cartoon Network on the television.

“When I was young there was Cartoon Network. [It] was spoken in English but had Korean subtitles.”

Eventually, Won moved to watching CNN and Discovery Channel in the same format.

Won says that his host father is a very sarcastic person. The family had to explain that he wasn’t being serious but that he was just joking around. Won admits that it took a couple of months for him to get used to the sarcasm.

“We had a time of conflict but we overcame it,” says Won.

According to Won, his host family chose to host him because they adopted a young child from Korea. They were hoping that Won could teach his host brother about the culture of Korea.

Elizabeth St. Cyr, a math teacher at DHS, had Won in her math class recently and felt that it was difficult to get through some language barriers at first.

“He asked to go to his cabinet which was his locker,” said St. Cyr.

As the class went on, however, the barrier fell and Won began to fit in with the whole class. 

Max Pagnoulle is from Belgium. When the opportunity for him to travel overseas came about, Pagnoulle chose the United States. 

Although Won and Pagnoulle are from different countries, the two have had some of the same experiences. For example, it took some time for Pagnoulle to get used to American English. He had small amount of British English under his belt, but it took three to four months to acclimate himself with American slang.

Pagnoulle is extremely happy with his host family. Just like Won, Pagnoulle said at first it was strange living in someone else’s house. “After a while you feel like it’s your own home,” adds Pagnoulle.

Although he does miss his family, he admits that he is busy with swim team and track and field that he hardly has time to think about them.  His host family is doing a great job of making Pagnoulle feel right at home. “It’s like a second life,” describes Pagnoulle.

DHS has participated in these programs for the past seven years. Sally Thorn, a guidance counselor at DHS, is in charge of organizing the foreign exchange students.

Each year Thorn receives packages from several different foreign exchange student programs that include each student’s profile. The packages contain their application, grades, and an essay that details who they are, where they are from, and why they want to come to America.

Liz Correnti, a secretary in the guidance office, adds that the students must be able to speak and understand English, and that the principal needs the approve them.

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2 Responses to "Coming to America"

  1. Kris says:

    I am HoSung’s supervisor and I can honestly say that he has truly embraced the purpose of our program. He’s quite curious about American culture and has fully integrated himself into his school and host family. I hope that other American families will give students like HoSung the same opportunity that he has had. I know that he truly appreciates being here this year ! This is an excellent way to build bridges between our countries. Thank YOU Dover High teachers for your patience and students for your friendship and to Emma for bringing awareness to these great exchange students ! Nice work !

    1. Emma Partridge says:

      HoSung has been such a great edition to the Dover High School community, as well as Max. I was lucky enough to have both of them in my American Pop Culture class this year. The class learned things about Korea and Belgium and the we were able to teach them about America. We are truly grateful that we get to have such a wonderful opportunity to meet them!

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