HIGH LIFE : A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : ‘One Big Family’ : Students From Around the World Gather to Further the Cause of Friendship

Lynda Kim is a senior at Cypress High School, where she is the editor of the school newspaper, Centurion Scroll, the historian for student government, president of the physics and calculus clubs, vice president of the International Club and a member of the California Scholastic Federation.

From Japanese kimonos to Pakistani fashions, from Korean barbecues to all-American hamburgers, from African, American and Latin rhythms to a Hawaiian hula dance . . . the International Days festival at Cypress High School celebrated a coming together of nations.

The third annual festival, with “A Little Peace of the World” as its theme, was sponsored by Cypress High’s International Club. About 30 foreign exchange students attending high schools throughout the Southland spent last Friday on the Cypress campus.

“I see the world as one big family. Its members create barriers out of fear and ignorance. Understanding and friendship melt the barriers,” said Hillary Marshall, a 17-year-old senior and president of the Cypress International Club.

“People need to understand one another through knowledge of others’ cultures,” said Marshall, who spent last summer as an exchange student in Argentina. “World understanding through knowledge and friendship--that’s what it’s all about.”


International Day’s busy schedule included classroom visits by the exchange students, a multicultural fashion show, a parade of flags and international food booths operated by campus clubs.

“I think International Day was great,” said Pia Hakio, a 17-year-old exchange student from Finland who is a junior at Norwalk High. “I met so many exchange students from this area. I especially liked the party and the fashion show.”

Freddy Graubner, a 17-year-old senior at Lakewood High, is an exchange student from West Germany. “I loved it because all the nations came together and we all had the same feelings inside,” he said. “It was like we’re all the same and not enemies.”

Said Lasse Makela, a 17-year-old junior from Finland who attends Gahr High in Cerritos: “I liked visiting the classes. They treated me really well. They wanted to know about my country, they asked questions, and they didn’t put us (the exchange students) down.”


It is through such organizations as AFS International, Youth for Understanding, and Europe Foundation that exchange students are paired with their host families for a semester, a school year or the summer.

Many of the students attending International Day were making their first visit to the United States. Their thoughts about this country, its people and educational system seemed to differ as much as their personalities.

“Before I came to California, I wanted to see all the famous places like Disneyland and Hollywood,” Hakio said. “I liked Disneyland a lot, but Hollywood wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. I really like to go shopping. Also, there are so many channels on TV. In Finland, we only have three channels.”

Isabelle Boutin, a 17-year-old senior from Canada attending Long Beach Poly High, said Southern California was not all she expected. “What I expected was warmer weather. I thought I was going (to go) to the beach every day. But the weather is cooler, and you have other things to do than just go to the beach--you have to go to school, do homework and stuff like that.

“I wouldn’t want to live in Southern California (permanently). It’s too stressful here because there’s too much population.”

Fred Yaman Atatus, an 18-year-old from Turkey who attends Newport Harbor High, said, “I used to watch a lot of American TV programs back home. Shows like ‘Dynasty’ give a bad impression of America, but I learned that it’s not really like that here.

“Our culture is probably moving towards America. We have McDonald’s, the beach life. . . . You know, we have almost the same life back home. The difference is that we kept our tradition. We try not to let go of it. For instance, we probably treat old people with more respect in Turkey.”

Claudia Englert, a 17-year-old senior from West Germany attending Anaheim High, said, “What I hate about America are the families who are total couch potatoes, but then you can’t really go out in the field and the nature to get fresh air if you live in a really big city like Anaheim.”


Sanne Simonsen, a 17-year-old from Denmark attending Cypress High as a senior, said, “I like California sun, the beaches and that most people are pretty friendly and open. The best thing is that things are happening all the time here. I like that.”

“We were warned about the pollution and other problems in California through the media back home,” she added. “One bad thing (in California) is that you have to depend on family and friends to pick you up all the time. But my host family and friends are really nice about it.”

Said Graubner: “There are so many rules here, especially in school. People don’t set standards and rules for themselves because there are so many put upon them. It’s not like that in (West) Germany.” She said there are open campuses at schools in her homeland, and although the legal drinking age is 18, the law is hardly enforced.

Turning their thoughts to education, the exchange students unanimously preferred their own countries’ systems.

Dejan Aleksic, 17, of Yugoslavia, a senior at Newport Harbor High, explained: “School is different. In Yugoslavia the students stay in one class all the time, and the teachers go around from class to class. Also, we have more subjects to learn in one year. I would usually have to take about 13 subjects every year.”

Said Englert: “I like the sports in American schools, but I like (schools) in Germany better because you learn much more. You learn more because the teachers really motivate you to learn.”

Said Andersen: “It’s nice that you get to go around to different classes and see different people every period, but on the other hand, you don’t know your classmates very well. Also, I think the (school) work is a lot easier here (than in Denmark).”

Another major difference was pointed out by Simonsen, who said, “We call our teachers by their first names. We also have more discussions in class.” She added, “The (education) system in Denmark is not as stressful as the system in America because we do not have as many tests there.”


Added Simonsen:"I don’t want to stereotype, but most teen-agers in America are a little more superficial than teen-agers in Denmark. (American teen-agers) care a lot about the way they look. They wear more makeup here.

“Another thing is that Denmark teen-agers have more freedom, like staying out late. Maybe that’s because it’s safer in Denmark.”

Added Andersen: “I think American kids, when you make friends with them, it’s not really a close friendship. It’s like when you see them, you say, ‘What’s up, dude?’ and that’s it. Also, you can’t say this about everybody, but I think teen-agers here are immature.”

Englert agreed with Andersen. “I think they (American teen-agers) care too much about how they are on the outside. I didn’t really find a lot of people I could talk to seriously. They just see things on top and not look in deeper.”

Added Hakio: “In Finland, parents trust teen-agers more than parents here do. Teen-agers are more free there.”

When asked if he would consider making the United States his permanent home, Atatus said, “It’s nice here, but (Turkey) is also nice. And my country needs well-educated people (because) we have problems to solve. Maybe one of the people who will solve them is me.”