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‘Best of The Globe 2018' now underway

WHS exchange students enthused about year ahead

Italian Paola Sharka (left) and Brazilian Sabrina Gomes will study at Worthington High School in exchange programs for the next nine months. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Although they’ve only been stateside for a matter of weeks, Worthington’s foreign exchange students are getting acclimated to where they’ll call home for the next nine months.

Each nearly 5,000 miles from home, Brazilian student Sabrina Gomes and Italian student Paola Sharka are excited about spending the next several months in Worthington and studying in an American high school.

“(WHS students) are all so nice,” said Sharka of her peers. “I wasn’t expecting that. They ask all kind of questions.”

Gomes agreed, as she’s already found a spot on the WHS cheerleading squad, something she had a deep desire to experience.

“I didn’t imagine I could be a cheerleader,” Gomes said. “So I’m very happy I could be.”

Gomes, from Boituva, Brazil, is staying with host parents Paris and Joshua Langseth and their children Lillyana, Easton, Willow and Beckham. Sharka, from Bolzano, Italy, is living on the same block, with host parents Tonisha and Josh Miller, along with their children Blayke, Raya and Jayde.

The 16-year-olds both agreed that the influence of American media — including film, music and pop culture — piqued their interest in visiting the United States for the first time and participating in an exchange program so they could experience it for themselves.  

Some of the girls’ most exciting aspects of the school year so far include being picked up by a yellow school bus, having a locker and participating in extracurricular activities.

For Sharka, that includes tennis, a sport she’s playing for the first time.

“I wanted to try something different,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to Gomes’ cheerleading at Trojan football games, she is also enrolled in dance classes at Shining Fame Performance, where she practices ballet, jazz, contemporary, tap and hip-hop.

Both are also very excited for the spring prom.

Shopping fanatics, both were enthusiastic about the shopping excursions they’ve taken so far. Upon landing in Minneapolis, Gomes wasted no time in heading over to the Mall of America.

Sharka has already browsed the aisles of large American department stores, Walmart and Target. Target, she said, impressed her most.

While both are enjoying some of the American mainstays, it has not been without flexibility and adjustment.

Both agreed the biggest adjustment they’ve undergone so far is the difference in American food consumption to what’s custom in Brazil and Italy.

“In America everything is very fast,” Gomes said. A typical Brazilian meal includes white rice, beans, some type of meat and salads.

Sharka — who is accustomed to the traditional Italian dishes of pasta and pizza — agreed. Recognizing those dishes are present in America, she added that they’re vastly different than the Italian versions.

Sharka said that although the cuisine and food culture in Italy are different than America, it is not necessarily bad, and she’s very excited to eat at the American fast food chain Wendy’s.

Although their applications to study abroad included being tested on their English literacy and communicative skills, both admitted to being nervous about their ability to achieving all daily tasks with the English language.

The girls are also adapting changes in class structure, including how students rotate from classroom to classroom throughout the day.

“In Brazil, teachers change classrooms,” Gomes said.

The school day in their home countries also ends earlier in the afternoon.

“Here is very tiring — training and homework,” Gomes said.

Gomes and Sharka were also surprised to learn that locations they frequent daily are not as easily accessible as in their home countries.

“Here, you really need a car to go anywhere,” Sharka said. “In Italy, I’d walk everywhere.”

Looking ahead in the school year, Sharka is considering trying basketball and Gomes hockey, but they’re seeing where the year takes them.

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