A One Way Exchange, a Two Way Experience
For students at Staples, foreign language and culture are usually only explored through the World Language program. Some travel to other countries or through books and movies. But this year, one Westport family is learning about Argentinean culture first hand, from their foreign exchange student, Camila Montenegro. Montenegro, from Santiago de Estero, Argentina, is a junior at Staples this year, as is her host sister Anna Violette.
Montenegro discovered the program through a friend of her uncle who is a part of the Rotary club in Argentina. Westport Sunrise Rotary, which the Violette family is involved in, has taken on the job of bringing foreign students from all over the world to Westport.
“My dad is highly involved in the Westport Sunrise Rotary,” Violette said, “We thought that this would be a great experience for our family as well Camila.”
Montenegro describes herself as social, funny and sweet. She enjoys music, specifically bands like Coldplay and the Killers. Back home the 17 year old enjoys kickboxing and hanging out with her friends, meanwhile, in America she is on the swim team and is learning the piano.
But those aren’t the only things that Montenegro has adjusted to in America, specifically in Westport. “The most different part of Westport is the school and the people,” she said, “In Argentina, I go to a Catholic school and we have to wear uniforms. I have 12 subjects. We have a siesta during the day and we eat dinner at 11 p.m. We have four meals during the day, but here there are only three.” Montenegro also explained how people and students here are “much more closed,” and not as social as the citizens in Argentina.
In addition to the scheduling differences Montenegro mentioned the big size difference of the two schools. She noted how Staples is so big, compared to her old school of only 800 students which added to her first day of school jitters.
“My first day I was so nervous, I wanted to go back to Argentina! I was so sad and lost all morning” said Montenegro “But, I met many friends the first day and finished my day okay!” She quickly went to describe Staples as having a friendly vibe and entertaining aura.
Along with experiencing a new country and it’s culture and learning about math, science and history in school, Montenegro also is learning a new language and improving everyday.
Montenegro recalls English being very difficult for her when she first got off the plane, but believes she is improving, and Violette agrees. “She’s been here for about three weeks. Her English has improved tremendously from when she got off the plane!” She continued, “sometimes she Skype’s with her family, and she catches herself speaking English to them instead of Spanish!”
As well as getting a different cultural experience Montenegro is giving a different point of view of the world to her classes and the school. “There’s got to be a benefit to any setting to bring a different perspective of the world,” said Guidance Counselor Denise Honeycutt.
Although Montenegro’s new classmates and friends can learn and experience new culture, her host family has been really benefiting from their time so far – learning about another, different culture through their guest.
“We have had a great experience so far! My family has taken advantage of her Spanish and has attempted to learn a little bit, so far not so good,” said Violette “The other night she cooked dinner for us, and her Argentinian food was amazing, I’ve never had anything like it. Learning about her culture is so eye-opening.”
Both Violette and Montenegro have had a great past few weeks and are excited for the coming months and what they will bring.
“It is so different from Argentina, but I love so much my new life in Westport and in Staples!” Montenegro said.