Humans of MHS #4 - International Students


By Maple Perchlik, Emma Harter, and Natalia Volobueva

This year the Solon Spectrum noticed there are many new international faces in the MHS community and we wanted to better get to know them and the stories they have to tell.  So a new group of Spectrum writers decided to kick off the first edition with some interviews with students from around the world.

*Note:  If you haven't yet read Humans of MHS #1, read it here!  It explains exactly what this column is and why it matters.

 Natalia Volobueva

Natalia Volobueva

Natalia Volobueva

Interview by Emma Harter

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Natalia and I’m from Russia. I’m from the far eastern part of Russia: near China, Japan, near the Sea of Japan, a city called Vladivostok. It’s kind of a big city, the population is the same as the population of all of Vermont, like 600,000. I did not know that my city was so big before I came here, because this town is tiny. So that’s where come from, and I am here for an exchange program for ten months, all school year.

What is your most memorable experience in the United States so far?

I’ve been here for two months already, and I experienced a lot (that you can experience in Vermont). First of all, when I came here, the company that made my program work, CIEE, made the orientation for all exchange students that are coming here to the U.S. from different countries. So, we had two days in New York, and we went traveling to see the main places in New York. It was fun. Several times I have been to Boston.  Boston is a really beautiful city and I’m going to visit again, and I’m going to visit New York again too - I’m really excited about it.

What inspired you to come to the United States?

Inspiration. Maybe one year ago I saw a girl, she was doing this program and I saw that it was really cool. My English will be of a higher level, maybe fluency by the end of this year. I studied English a lot before it, and had a lot of practice because I like to travel. Just to experience American life. That is what inspired me.

Do you like being in the United States?

So far, yes I like it. But everything has it’s ups and downs. Like bad times and good times. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s okay. It’s like when you're moving to a new town and you’re going to a new school, it’s complicated each time, even if you’re not moving to another country, another language speaking area. It’s hard. But when it’s like this, it’s harder.

What are some ideas that you had about America before you arrived? Were things different from what you imagined it to be?

Here in Montpelier, and in Vermont, everyone is saying to me that it’s a different America, somehow. This is the capital, and you have like houses, and you don’t have this “American thing.” You don’t have American food because all the food is made here or you have things that are healthy - but not all of America is like this, I know it, and everyone is saying it to me.

Also, here you have different counting things. For example, like weight or length. You have different systems. You have miles, in Russia we have kilometers, meters, and centimeters. Here you have inch and foot- it’s not making sense how you have it! For example, ten centimeters is one decimeter, one-hundred centimeters is one meter: it makes sense. Here, inches do not make sense. Fahrenheit, you don’t make sense. Celsius, you make sense.

Do you have any plans for after high school?

Leave. I’m going to finish high school next year. I’m going to finish it in Russia. Actually, I don’t know, it’s really hard. I haven’t decided what I’m going to study in the future, what profession I’m going to choose. I think it’s going to be something with languages, because I get that. Like translating things or international relations. Or even journalism, I was thinking about it, I had practice with it before. Maybe I’m going to do my modelling. I already did modelling and maybe in my future life - it’s not going to be my main profession - but maybe I’m just going to do it for fun.

How does MHS compare to your school back home?

It’s too much. The Russian education system, or even Russian schools, here what you have is completely different. And, I can’t say that the American education system is worse than Russian, but sometimes it’s like not getting something. In Russia we have to study all the subjects. We study physics, we study chemistry, we study geometry, several maths. We study every year, every year we have class and we don’t have opportunity to choose subjects. So here, for example, you can have biology and you’re not choosing… like chemistry. You’re not going to learn chemistry at all in your life. In Russia we are going to do it. Even if you aren’t interested, you must do it. This is the Russian education system.

Here you have opportunities, clubs. In Russia we have clubs sometimes, not usually. You have clubs you have these opportunities here in school, like festivals, music. In Russia, music and art, or any other schooling is besides “grade education” is separated from the school. So we don’t have music, we don’t have art or subjects like this in our school. I hate it, because I want to study music, but I have to have a private teacher or go to lessons to study music instead of being in school. If I wanted to go to music school, we have it, but you need to study there from like seven years old, and if you’re not there at seven years old, you can not attend this school.

How do you define success? What would make you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you want to accomplish?

A lot of students do exchange programs in big cities, and they have more opportunities - even in school they have more subjects, and they can study what they are studying in their own country. Right now, I can’t do that here. For example, trigonometry. In Russia right now, in the tenth grade, more than half the year they will spend studying trigonometry. Here, they have only one unit for trigonometry. I can not do all this stuff because it is a small school, small town. But, I’m going to try to get everything from here. It’s just a different type of living. I’m from the big city, and I travelled a lot around the world and I’ve been in the biggest cities. I never lived in a small town like this, so it’s a new experience. Fun!

Chloe Fan

Interview by Maple Perchlik

What is your name?

Chloe Fan.

Where are you from?

Northern China.

What is your most memorable experience in the United States so far?

When Sadie gave me a gift and wrote a really sweet card for me on my birthday. That was a truly unforgettable thing.

What inspired you to come to the United States?

I watch a lot of american TV series and movies, and I’m good at English for an exchange student. And my parents always encouraged me to.

So do you have any plans for after high school that you are excited about?

Yes, I want to go to a university in America.

Is there one is particular?

Well I like NYU, because their [film school] is really good, my favorite director is from there, and I want to be a movie director.

How does MHS compare to your school back in China?

It has more freedom. Like, [at] my school in China, we go to school in the afternoon, at three o’clock on Sunday. And we have to stay there until Friday afternoon. And everybody has to get up at six thirty and has to be in the classroom at seven o’clock.

So it’s like a boarding school - you sleep there?

Yes. I know America has schools like this too. We are kind of strict, because we have a certain time, you have to do this, you have to do that.

If you had one word to describe your time hear so far, what would it be?

I don’t know … awkward?  

How has speaking and understanding English been going?

It’s been fine.  I can handle basic conversation like this, but when it comes to like classes, like when the teacher talks too fast I’ll be like, “What’s he talking about?”

And do you feel comfortable talking to your teachers when you don’t understand?

Yes, they are all very kind.

What is one thing you miss about your home?

Food. My mom makes a lot of delicious food. Noodles, Chinese noodles, and dumplings!

What is your favorite subject to study in school?

I don’t have a favorite, but I like science and math and I kind of like English even though I'm bad at it, but the teacher is so nice. And I like art and choir. Social studies is actually a little bit hard for me because we have to search everything by ourselves. And we don’t have that kind of thing in China.  The teacher just tells you and we take notes and we take a lot of tests. So this is new for me, and everything on the internet is in English, so it’s hard for me.

Are there things that your host family does that are new and different for you?

Yes. Back in China we usually have a big breakfast, medium lunch, and small dinner. And here we usually have a big dinner - like the biggest meal in the whole day, and we have a little bit for breakfast. I think it causes me to gain weight.

Do you have a best friend in China that you miss?

Yes. here a lot of people are friends since they are little, like since kindergarten, so their relationship is really strong. And I have that kind of friend back in China but not here. So basically I'm by myself, so this is kind of hard for me. I really miss my friends, and sometimes they text me.

What is a goal you want to achieve while you are in America?

I want to get good grades and I want to understand all of what you are talking about, to have a conversation with you guys. And make some friends that like me and respect me, and I like them and respect them.

 Michael Doppebaüer

Michael Doppebaüer

Michael Doppelbaüer

Interview by Natalia Volobueva

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ok, my name is Michael Doppelbaüer and I'm from Wels, Austria. I am 15 years old and this is my third month at Montpelier High as an exchange student. I'm here for all this school year, 10 months. Actually, it's my sophomore year of high school, but program in Austria is different, so here I'm more junior.  I’ve played piano for 10 years already

What is your most memorable experience in the United States so far?

Oh… I remember that moment, this summer, when I finally landed in New York, I had this feeling of awareness that I'm actually in the United States for the first time in my life. I realised that I'm going to stay here for 10 months.  Before I came here, when I was thinking about my exchange year, it felt kind of unreal.

Why the United States? What inspired you?

That’s an easy question. When I was discussing my exchange with my parents, one of the things that they wanted is me to go to a safe country. This country, of course, is supposed to be an English-speaking one. So... my two preferred countries were Australia and the US. The problem with Australia was that you couldn’t choose where you would be placed. So, in conclusion, the US was the best option different from expectations.

One of my best friends in Austria started talking about her plans of going abroad for a year, so I started thinking about it as well. When she applied for her program, I told my parents about it and they asked me if I would like to do it, too. After thinking about it for a short period of time, I decided to give it a try and I sent AFS my application.

What are some ideas that you had about America before you arrived? Were things different from what you imagined it to be?

I actually thought that Vermont would be more conservative, considering the fact that it’s a rural area, which means, at least in Austria, that it’s more conservative than it actually is. So I was surprised in a  really positive way.

Do you have any plans for after high school?

I don’t really know yet. But I am thinking about going to law school in Austria after graduation. In Austria college is free for Austrian citizens. Also I was thinking about going to the US for a Master’s degree. Until now, I don’t really have any further plans. Perhaps this year in USA will help me with this decision.

How does MHS compare to your school back home?

Oh, there are a lot of differences. The main one is that we have one class, like one group of people that you supposed to stay with for [all of] high school, we have our own room, and teachers come to us - not the other way around. In Austria we cannot chose between subjects. We all learn the same things, that school gives us. This makes it possible to stay with same people, because we all have same subjects. But we have the same division for Elementary, Middle and High school. And I want to mention that we have 12 grades in Austria, too.

Do you like being in the United States?

Yes, I love it. I think I’m really lucky that I got here. I have a cool host family, I love spending time with them. Vermont is a great place, because people here are so nice to me.  And I’m glad I got to this school. Before I came, here I didn’t know how people in school were going to treat me. I’ve been surprised in a good way, because the community at MHS is strong.