Exchange Students at Lake Ridge


Lake Ridge’s diversity is not unheard of but adding to that variety in cultures is exchange students. These students bring little parts of the world right here, to this school. Exchange students schooling at Lake Ridge come from a number of different countries, starting from Germany, in the eastern hemisphere, to Spain, in the western hemisphere, and their presence certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.

 These students go through multiple processes of testing for eligibility and within a year arrive in the United States, where they can live out the classic American movies. One exchange student in particular, junior Nele Ritter, initially explored the idea of switching out of her school in Germany for a year after watching typical chick-flicks starring the notorious jock and shy nerd, the tall guy with the dark past and raging feminist with an attitude, and so on. Kat Stratford from ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ may hate when a high school boy makes her laugh, even more when he makes her cry, when he’s not around or doesn’t call, she may hate the way she doesn’t hate him, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all, but Ritter certainly looks forward to that kind of story in America. 

“I wanted the opportunity to go to a high school once in my life and like experience actually going to a high school. Like, the ‘American high school’ like how you see it in the movies like ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘High School Musical,’ ‘10 Things I Hate About You,’ and so on. I wanted to experience that,” said Ritter. 

Others look forward to a different aspect: getting to explore a culture contrasting their own. Junior, Claudia Garcia, who arrived here from Spain, started her exchange student process September of 2020, filling out paperwork and multiple forms, searching for good host families, and testing for language eligibility, and within a year she was where she wanted to spend her junior year: America. Like Ritter, Garcia has seen her fair share of typical American movies and heard numerous stories from friends and family about foreign countries. 

“A lot of people have talked to me about the experience and they said it’s a really good way to you know, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, meet new cultures, and it’s really fun so I’ve had a really good experience,” Garcia said. 

Upon getting to a new country, though, not everyone’s experience is the best. The first day of school is a nightmare for students who have lived in the same town and gone to the same school their whole life, even more so for teenagers who have never been to school in a whole different continent. On top of the slight language barriers, there’s also the new layout of a different school system, which was the hardest thing for some exchange students, like junior Razan Amaneddine, to figure out, although Americans being welcoming in nature certainly helped out.

“The first day of school was the hardest day because I was lost and in a place where I don’t know where I am. I was walking in the hallway and I was like ‘where am I going?’ and I was going to be late for my homeroom class. So, it was just like so hard but then I saw a senior girl,I asked her, and she took me to my class and that helped but like somehow the first day of school was horrible. I can’t forget it,” said Amaneddine. 

After the first day fiascos are over, the American school system starts to grow on most exchange students. Surprisingly, it’s incredibly different from other countries, and Amaneddine definitely appreciates that. As an aspiring surgeon she has looked forward to the loads of medical classes Texas offers and hopes that coming to America was the right decision to shape her future career decisions. 

“Basically, it’s totally different, in the US you get to choose your classes, in Lebanon there’s no choice like that. You have to take all classes, like we have 13 classes to take each year. Here, I get to choose what I love [at school]. It’s just, like, in Lebanon I’m obliged to take whatever but here I want to be, hopefully, a surgeon and I got to choose medical classes. In Lebanon I don’t have that choice. It was so different but that’s my favorite part,” said Amaneddine. 

Despite the language, culture, and schooling differences seen between exchange students and local ones, one thing remains the same: the fact that they are all teenagers. Universally, teenagers hate waking up early in the morning for school, [ ], and in Ritter’s case, not having independence. Ritter’s biggest annoyance living in Texas is surprisingly not the heat; it’s not being able to drive around. 

“Everybody here drives and the distances here are so long so if you don’t have a car you’re like kind of dependent to go with someone who has a car. In Europe you can just walk somewhere,” said Ritter. 

Despite the culture barriers and exchange students are certainly experiencing a totally different country, culture, and social world, and thankfully, they’re loving it.