NEW KNOXVILLE — A local district added three global students this school year as part of a foreign exchange student program.
Metteo Rinaldi Ceroni, a junior from Italy, Bobby Fu, a junior from China, and Kwon Sang Ki, a sophomore from South Korea, arrived in New Knoxville at end of August and early September. The three students each learned of the opportunity, and after discussing it with their families, they decided to come to the United States and were randomly assigned to travel to New Knoxville. Rinaldi Ceroni said he wanted “to get a U.S. experience,” and Fu said he is working on his English.
“I want to improve my English — talking, reading and writing,” Fu said, noting that he knew some English before embarking on his journey to the United States.
Fu noted that the language barrier has been a challenge.
“When I first came here it was hard to understand what people say,” he said, noting that he would sometimes feel silly.
Rinaldi Ceroni agreed that the language has taken some time to get used to.
“There’s a lot of slang,” he said. “Americans cut words.”
The three students also noted the way schooling is different in the United States. Sang Ki said he attends school for 13 hours a day and Fu said he attends classes for 12 hours. Sang Ki and Fu said that the students attend each of their classes together, rather than having different people in each of their classes. Fu noted that tests are a longer event.
“Tests last about two hours,” he said.
Rinaldi Ceroni said a typical school day lasts between four and six hours. He said he has more work to do when school is out as well.
“We have more homework to do after school,” he said, noting it can take him two or three hours to complete.
Rinaldi Ceroni, Fu and Sang Ki are each taking a full load of courses, including a balance of math, science and English. One course, they agreed, sticks out as the most difficult.
“English is hard,” Rinaldi Ceroni said. “She (the teacher) gave out books to read and some of them are very difficult because they’re (in) ancient English.”
Fu said they had recently read “Beowulf,” and agreed it was difficult. He also pointed out another aspect of English class.
“We have vocab,” he said. “They are difficult words.”
Outside of the classroom, the three exchange students have been adjusting to life in the United States well. Sang Ki and Rinaldi Ceroni joined the Rangers soccer team and noted that they had played back in their respective countries for fun.
“After soccer, we hang out with friends or sometimes we have to study,” Rinaldi Ceroni said. “Mostly we hang out with friends.”
Fu has also gotten involved in athletics and said he has been practicing basketball. He recently was able to take a trip to Dayton.
“My host family took me to the Air Force museum,” he said.
Sang Ki identified riding in the car with a friend one of his most memorable moments so far.
“I like riding in my friend’s car because in my country we cannot do that until we are 19,” he said.
The three students agreed that making friends has been easy.
“Americans are very friendly,” Rinaldi Ceroni said. “It’s very easy to make friends.”
Sang Ki added that Americans are “very kind,” and Fu agreed that everyone has been friendly.
“They (Americans) are outgoing,” Fu said. “Between periods they say hi to each other.”
In addition to learning about American culture and language, the three have had to adjust to small town life. Each said they are from large cities.
“We have lots of apartments and tall buildings,” Sang Ki said of his hometown.
“Here, I can see the stars. I can see the wild deer and rabbits and squirrels — I had never seen a wild one.”
Rinaldi Ceroni pointed out another shocking aspect of their small town experience.
“There’s no traffic,” he said. “It’s very weird.”
They all agreed that despite the small town environment, they have enjoyed their time so far.
“Although the school is small, we can still have fun,” Rinaldi Ceroni said.