Upperclassmen experience exchange


Maddie Cooke

Seniors Audrey Frost and Anna Worpvik participate in homecoming week by dressing up as the cookie and the baker.

Junior Tina Tang and senior Anna Worpvik spent the last three months on  foreign soil, learning about and experiencing the American culture firsthand during their exchange periods. Tang will be here for a first semester; while Worpvik will be here for the full year.

“I wanted to experience something new and just get to know a lot of people and the culture. I wanted to learn a language and just have the high school experience,” Worpvik said.

Worpvik is from Norway and will be spending her senior year at West, taking classes that will count towards her education back home.

“Sometimes if foreign exchange students take specific classes here they can count this year as a year of their high school studies, depending on the program they use for the exchange,” counselor Jen Spotanski said .  “A lot of times the programs will want them to take U.S. History and Government. They also like them to take an English class and a math class. Those are generally the classes the students are required to take, but not always.”

Tang, from Hong Kong, is more focused on the experience of the trip as her classes are not for high school credit.

“Tina is coming for the experience. She actually has to go back and still complete two years of high school; her junior and senior years. As students come here, it depends on the exchange program they are participating in as to whether they will get credit for the classes they take,” Spotanski said.

Spotanski is both girls’ counselor for the duration of their stay and was involved in helping the girls settle in when they first arrived.

“We usually find out [who our exchange students will be] towards the end of summerusually mid-to end of July. Then the counselor of the student is notified by Dr. Mitchell. We will contact the family once the student is registered into the system. It really depends on the student and when they arrive, but we usually try to get that last bit done quickly so that they can have greater success,” Spotanski said.

Sometimes the foreign exchange students will arrive before the school year starts, like Worpvik.

“I’m going to travel a lot. I’m going to Florida and San Diego and New York. I’ve been to Minnesota. What I wanted to see when I came to the U.S. was just different parts, which I get to do,” Worpvik said.

Junior Tina Tang and her lab partner junior Breahna Lopez study hair samples in Forensics.
Kelsey Baxter
Junior Tina Tang and her lab partner junior Breahna Lopez study hair samples in Forensics.

In their free time, both girls have gotten to see a little of St. Louis as well.

“I have seen the Arch, the zoo, and went to a baseball game. We lost, but it was exciting. Sitting in the stadium with all the people is much different from watching it on TV,” Tang said.

Tang will also be experiencing another first in the coming months.

“I’m really excited to go ice skating. I’ve also never seen snow before so I’m excited to experience all that,” Tang said.

Besides weather differences, both have noted significant differences in culture. For Tang, it is the interpretation of appearances.

“In my country weight is a good thing. When people gain weight, we ask them if life is going well. Here gaining weight is not a good thing,” Tang said.

The number of options available when shopping was the biggest difference for Worpvik.

“Our grocery stores are not that big. They are so much smaller. When you try to find milk here, you have a hundred different options; which is ridiculous,” Worpvik said.

With all the “ridiculous” amount of options, both girls have gotten the chance to take on a class or two that they would not have been able to take at home; like Worpvik is taking piano and psychology.

“Here I get to take fun classes, like forensic science. I don’t have that option at home,” Tang said.

Tang and Worpvik are not the only ones learning about new things.

“I think it’s a learning experience that is reciprocal for both parts,” Spotanski said. “We learn from the culture that they bring to us, as well as they learn a lot of our American culture. The learning takes place on both ends and that it’s a very dynamic learning experience for all of us.”