New Country, New City, New School, and 7,000 Miles from Home
It was Danai Pouliadou’s dream to participate in a foreign exchange program. “It is not very known in Greece and I had to search on the Internet a lot.” From November to June of 2010-2011, Pouliadou stressfully worked on her application and “got a final in June.” Since there are no foreign exchange programs in Greece, she had to research many American programs to apply for by sending various e-mails for seven months. Many programs could not work with her because there is no coordinator in Greece. However, there was one international foreign exchange student program that was able to fulfill Pouliadou’s desire to travel and it was NW Services.
While a foreign exchange program sounds like a blast, Pouliadou would warn anyone who wants to try one to be prepared for the many months required before-hand for the application process. From the NW services website, the program “focus[es] on cultural exchanges for foreign exchange students of high school age in order to further cultural understanding.”
Pouliadou, a junior, is a Greek exchange student who started the 2012 school year at WHS. “School is kind of the same, but the school system is a lot different.” In Greece, classes are with the same group of students the entire day. High school in the United States is different because with every class there are not always same set of students. “I am friends with all my classmates [in Greece] because I’ve known them for so many years.”
For Pouliadou, in Greece, a typical school day afternoon is spent finishing her homework early and later going dance classes. Last year in particular, she would go everyday to her English school and take tests.
She chose the United States and not any other countries in Europe because “the United States is something totally different than Europe.” As well as to improve her English, she wanted to “broaden her horizons.” The way in which Pouliadou attended WHS is through a personality test. “I had to complete personal [questions] and then they would accept me.” Grades also played a huge role in her application process. “If I didn’t have good grades I wouldn’t be able to come.”
Upon arriving in the United States, Pouliadou was actually not surprised with anything concerning American culture “because that’s what [she has] seen in the movies.”
In terms of arts and entertainment, Pouliadou loves romance books, movies, and T.V. shows such as her favorite, Grey’s Anatomy. She enjoys any books by Nicholas Sparks or movies based from his work, such as The Notebook. Pouliadou likes listening to rock/indie music such as the Kooks and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “We have Greek bands, but we also listen a lot to American music.” The band Vegas is a Greek hip-hop/pop band that is very popular.
Living 7,000 miles from home, NW services allows Pouliadou to talk to her friends and family once a week via the application Skype, which is such “a great invention!”
She has a 20-year-old brother who left last year to study in Germany. As younger children they would fight a lot, but once he left for school she began to miss him and soon they developed a good brother-sister relationship. “I skype with my brother almost every week.”
Pouliadou also misses traditional Greek food, especially Spanakopita, which is savory spinach pie. In addition to the food, she misses “spending time with [her] friends” because at home the transportation is so much easier. At home, she can easily walk downtown to meet up with friends. “It is really hard here if you are not allowed to drive. Because I am not allowed to drive, where ever I want to go I need a ride.”
Pouliadou lives with a host family in Redwood City and the parents have two small children that are six and seven. “The Dad is Greek, so I can speak Greek with him and he can understand me.”
Pouliadou likes WHS “because it is a lot different and it is a whole different experience.” Because the school systems are different, she is able to meet more new people in every class. “The school is bigger and it’s really weird that everyday I see people that I’ve never seen before.”
Pouliadou has not joined any clubs, but has joined the cross country and track teams, “which really made me get into knowing more people.” Most of her friends are from those team. “Now I cannot imagine myself not choosing cross country. It would be really weird.” However, it is actually not her favorite sport, but it is her favorite environment. In fact, her favorite sport is rowing, which she plans to continue when she returns to Greece.
This year, she is taking Algebra II/Trigonometry with Mr. Kaddoura and math is her favorite subject. Pouliadou loves math because she likes to challenge herself. “Here, I am taking animation and web design while in Greece there is no such thing. We don’t have electives and we don’t really choose our classes. They are standard.”
Pouliadou is thinking about her future everyday and considering a career in the veterinary field. “But now, I’m thinking about something like computer engineering.” For college, Pouliadou is considering colleges in the United Kingdom and Germany and not the United States simply because it is closer to home.
If you are interested in a foreign exchange program, please check out NW Services website: http://www.nw-services.com/
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