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home : features : features May 27, 2016


10/16/2012 1:51:00 PM
Cultural exchange at Williams High School
Three exchange students from across the globe adjust to small town life
Kathrin Werdinig (left), Alessandro Fadda and Claudia Olivares are exchange students at Williams High School this year. Olivares dressed as a zombie for homecoming spirit week. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Kathrin Werdinig (left), Alessandro Fadda and Claudia Olivares are exchange students at Williams High School this year. Olivares dressed as a zombie for homecoming spirit week. Ryan Williams/WGCN

David Yankus
Reporter


WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Students travel all around the world to learn about new cultures, different languages, become better informed, and to simply get a good education. Williams is now home to three such students.

Alessandro Fadda, Claudia Olivares, and Kathrin Werdinig were all looking for some diversity in their educational paths when they signed up to be foreign exchange students and chose the United States as their destination. All three are spending the school year as Williams High School (WHS) students.

According to Fadda, the senior from Italy, when a student signs up for the exchange program he or she can select the country he or she would like to go to, but that is the extent of his or her input in the selection process. Then the city, state, and school are all selected for him or her and the student finds out where he or she is going sometimes only weeks before moving.

"I knew it maybe three weeks before I left," said Werdinig, a junior from Austria.

In any event, all three students ended up living in Williams with three different host families. The teenagers all speak English very well, but are still adjusting to life in a small town in northern Arizona.

"At first the transition was very difficult, I usually live in a big city, so this is very very different," said Fadda. "It's a completely different life, but I'm really liking it."

Werdinig said she lives 20 minutes outside of Vienna, the capital of her home country, and coming to a town of 3,000 people from a city of 1.7 million is quite a change for her as well.

Olivares, the junior from Spain, said she comes from a less populated area compared to her foreign classmates, but it's still not as small as the Historic Route 66 community of Williams.

Fadda and Olivares are unsure yet of what their plans after high school will be or where they will further continue their studies, but Werdinig said she does hope to come back to the U.S. to study at a university someday.

Fadda said he is enjoying WHS even better than his school in Italy because of the events and activities that high schools in the States seem to do. Olivares and Werdinig enthusiastically agreed with their excited classmate.

"This school is fun, I have a really good time here. My other school is boring, you just have to study, we don't have dress days or fun things to do for homecoming," Fadda said, who was named WHS homecoming king at halftime of the Vikings football game against the Hopi High Bruins on Oct. 12.

According to the exchange students, placing them in smaller cities as opposed to bustling metropolises like New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia is common practice.

"They don't like to place students in such large cities," Werdinig said. "It's harder to get settled in and acclimated to the surrounding areas."

"I think it's more difficult to find host families in Los Angeles or a big city like that too," added Fadda, who also plays football for WHS.

Once each student found out they would be moving to Williams, they all said they had to look it up on a map to see exactly where it was. Although Werdinig actually recognized Route 66 and knew a little something about the historic highway.

Overall, the students said they are happy to be in the U.S. and look forward to continuing studying here and learning more about America, Arizona, and Williams.




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