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Exchange students bring international flair to AHS

By Eric Carman

Gaia and Bruno by E Carman
Bizzarri and Santos are spending their year far from home. Photos by Eric Carman

Every year, students from across the globe relocate from various countries and walks of life to spend a year at Alameda High. The school is hosting 25 students from various countries, ranging from populous China to remote Norway.

These students are set up with host families through independent companies, and then admitted into school based on the location of the home they are staying in. Many of the incoming students come from very different backgrounds, and this small island town can offer a completely new and original experience.

Bruno Santos, a senior from South America, described his home country. “I’m from Brazil. It’s hot, we have lots of beaches,” Santos says nonchalantly. He is impressed with the size of Alameda High, noticing “it is big, and a lot of students.”

Santos also pointed out the differences between local neighborhoods and those of his hometown. “It’s like security, like houses. Most of our houses are gated. Here you can leave your doors open.” He describes his town as “not a dangerous place, but not as safe as here.”

The financial situation in Brazil is not quite as secure as it is in California, Santos explains. “Brazil has an economic crisis,” he said. “For example, the price of a dollar. One dollar is four of our coins. Inflation is increasing a lot more.”

Santos says the majority of citizens in Brazil are unhappy with current government officials, adding that the president has an 8% approval rate.

Gaia Bizzarri is a senior from Rome, Italy. Rome is filled with many historic monuments, Bizzarri says. “It is very different from here. In Rome there are very old things,” she says with a timid grin. “It is very different from San Francisco.”

For her, the skyscrapers of downtown Oakland and San Francisco are a drastic change from the ancient architecture scattered around Rome, which she puts simply: “The buildings here are taller.”

Bizzarri, while surely missing her home life, has found comfort in Alameda High. “The people and the teachers are very nice. There are a lot of clubs, and you can choose your classes.” In Rome, classes are usually assigned by the school without much input from students. “I like the landscapes and I like the people [in Alameda]” she states warmly.

Iver by E Carman
Bunkholt travelled from Norway to Alameda this year.

Senior Iver Bunkholt, a Norwegian exchange student,  describes some of the differences he notices in the Bay Area and his home. “It’s much more multicultural here. We have diversity but not as much. People here are very open to new people.” The size of US cities is daunting to Bunkholt, he explains. “San Francisco is as big as Norway’s biggest cities,” he says excitedly.

One thing that strays from Bunkholt’s usual Norwegian high school experience is the presence of cliques. “People are a huge group, everyone is invited to parties. We don’t have as many cliques,” he said. Bunkholt said that in his hometown, the kids are all friends with one another, with very little social refinements or boundaries. He noted that this is “a problem, ’cause I want to hang out with everybody.”


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The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.