The American Experience

International students journey to the U.S.


Photo by Sabrina Richards

Students from around the globe pose in front of banners representing different countries they come from. Las Vegas differs from many foreign countries, but is similar at the same time.

Leaving home to travel across the globe to a strange and different country could frighten anyone. Boldly, a brave few have taken up the challenge, and have decided to become a part of Faith Lutheran’s family to receive the “American Experience.”

Faith Lutheran’s program for international students enables kids from all over the world to come to Nevada and immerse themselves in the culture of the United States. Currently, twenty-seven international students attend Faith Lutheran High School, all from various countries.

Faith Lutheran has one student from France, and “most of (the international students) are from China, while some students are from South Korea, and one from Vietnam,” said Mrs. Abigail Gunzelman, International Advocate and English as a Foreign Language teacher.

In the students’ homeland, the study of the English language begins as early as second or third grade as a second language. This compares to American students who may study Spanish or French as their foreign language.

Eleventh grader, Shimei Li, said she wanted to come to America for a “different experience.” Li was born in Guangzhou, China and moved to Arizona before coming to Las Vegas a year and a half ago.

For international students to completely receive the “American Experience,” it takes more than one person to create the excitement of America.

“One of the most difficult parts of being a foreign student is to understand American social events. (Foreign students) are usually (unaware) about football, basketball, prom, Sadies, and charity groups like Key Club or mission trips. I encourage all of (Faith Lutheran) students to include foreign students in theses activities,” Mrs. Susan Gentry, Director of Human Resources, said in an e-mail.

International students know first-hand how the United States differs from the rest of the world.

“The traffic is very different. There is much less traffic in (in Las Vegas) than in China, and the culture is more open,” said a junior at Faith Lutheran, Yier Zhu, who goes by Summer. Zhu moved to Las Vegas from Shanghai, China, and has attended Faith for three years.

Other international students agree that Las Vegas seems partially distinct to areas in Asia in multiple ways.

“Americans put too much oil on their food, and I do not think it is healthy, so I cook my own food with vegetables,” said sophomore, Kayan Wong, who comes from Hong Kong, China.

The appearance of United States citizens reflects that America’s culture and other cultures appears diverse.

“How people talk and the color of skin is different from South Korea,” said tenth grader, Erica Lee, who was born in Cheon-an and has lived in the United States for four years.

Many international students live with family members or friends who have already settled in America. Living with family “feels like my mom is near, and I do not get homesick,” said Wong.

Not all international students live with family; sometimes a Faith Lutheran family houses an international student. Though it may seem like a challenge to take on another family member, housing an international student denotes a welcoming heart.

“Families that house a foreign student just need to communicate with (the student) clearly what the rules are, have a bedroom just for the student and privacy, help them easily adjust to American food, and to most of all be friendly and inviting,” Gunzelman said.

Any family interested in housing an international student needs to speak with Dr. Steve Buuck, Faith Lutheran’s CEO, or Mrs. Susan Gentry.

The “American Experience” also begins with the international students’ teachers and how they help the students become comfortable with their new environment.

“The people (at Faith) are really nice, and I like how the teachers teach us, and the school system,” Lee said.

Along with teachers, American students help international students become culturally immersed.

“The teachers and classmates are really nice to me, and they help me a lot because English is not my first language,” Li said.

Despite the complete cultural experience, some challenges can occur as an international student.

“(International students) are not allowed to drive while in high school, so they depend on guardians or American friends for rides,” Gentry said in an e-mail.

As for students at Faith Lutheran, there are many opportunities to become culturally- immersed or study abroad over the summer with school trips. Faith Lutheran provides an opportunity this summer for high school students to study in Guangzhou, China for two weeks, from June 5th-18th. Elite Education Global, the company running the expedition, also places Chinese students at Faith Lutheran.

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