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Foreign exchange students reflect on their experiences

In August 2018, foreign exchange students Silvia Castellucci and Miguel Riederer began their year-long journey as students at San Marin.

Castellucci is from Sarsina, Italy, a small village nestled in the province of ForlìCesena. She wanted to take this opportunity to travel more and to explore outside of her town, especially after hearing about the experiences of other exchange students. Castellucci also had hoped to expand her perspective of other cultures and was surprised by San Marin’s diversity.

“The Mexican culture here, and other influences, and also all the Latino influence
[shocked me] because I never thought that it would be such a big influence,” Castellucci said.

Castellucci came to San Marin with specific assumptions and ideas, and she described her childhood as somewhat restricted and “narrow-minded.” However, her exposure at San Marin has led her to adopt new opinions.

“I’m totally different,” Castellucci said. “My mind is just changed, and so I’m open to trying new food, and discovering other cultures.”

She emphasized the role that English teacher Wesley Swedlow has played throughout her experience as a foreign exchange student, in helping her to become acclimated with a culture so different from the one she grew up surrounded by. On the second day of school, Swedlow introduced Castellucci to all of the students in the class, and he has since noticed that she has grown over the course of the year, while adding to the classroom in a way he does not experience with most of his other students.

“Silvia is both a keen and passionate thinker and arguer, and so she expands our discussions in ways that other students can’t,” Swedlow said. “Her voice in class became increasingly prominent, while her writing has gone to deeper levels in terms of conceptual complexity and verbal fluency.”

Riederer is also from Europe, specifically from Spain’s capital of Madrid. He finds that in taking the chance to become a foreign exchange student, he has become a more well-rounded person.

“I learned to see life as a journey where the destination is not a place, but a way to see everything from different perspectives to get a balanced
way of thinking,” Riederer said.

Just as Swedlow has been an important adult figure throughout Castellucci’s time at San Marin, Riederer credits math teacher Susan Taggard with being someone that he feels he can trust.

“She supported me when I really needed it,” Riederer said. “She is a beautiful and positive person who is always there when you need someone to talk [to].” Taggard has seen Riederer’s growth emerge mainly through his personality and relationships with other students, and has also noticed that he is a person that many gravitate towards. “It seems like he’s made quite a few friends and there are a lot of people that go to him,” Taggard said. “He’s also been really open to all different types of friends.”

Taggard has also observed that all foreign exchange students carry a light of intelligence, compassion and wisdom.

“All of them have just been gracious, grateful and respectful, and so open to learning,” Taggard said. “You can just see in their eyes how they want to soak in everything that they possibly can, because they know that this experience is once-in-a-lifetime.”

Swedlow encourages this idea of travel and exploration as well, adding that sometimes the most obscure places can create the most educational experience.

“If I were to give advice to someone going abroad, it would be to get lost,” Swedlow said. “The best way to learn a place is to not know where you are in it and find your way out. But by the time you do get out, you’ll have entirely changed where you thought you were.”

Riederer also emphasized the importance of pushing past limits and discovering new cultures.

“I would recommend everyone to go out and explore another country and learn about its culture,” Riederer said. “You will see how beautiful it is to learn.”

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