The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


Home away from home

Teens from different parts of the world gain new experiences and pursue unique opportunities after transferring to BVNW.
Rachel King
Senior Elena Santelli said she has a positive relationship with her host family. “When I met them they were super nice and I was instantly comfortable with them.” Santelli said.

As senior Elena Santelli entered BVNW for the first time, she felt overwhelmed by the unfamiliar environment. Not only was it a new building, but it was in a new country—one that was across the world from home. 

BVNW accepts foreign exchange students from all over the world, including Italy, the Netherlands, and more. There are currently three foreign exchange students at BVNW.

Santelli moved to the U.S. from Italy. She said she decided to be an exchange student in America due to her love of travel. 

“I have had this dream that I wanted to travel since I was in elementary school. I wanted to go to England, originally, but I started watching Netflix series like Friends and movies like Grease and [then] I changed it to America,” Santelli said. 

After moving to the U.S., Santelli said she experienced many cultural differences within school and life in general. For example, she said she is not used to mealtimes or the start and end times for school. In Italy, Santelli said she would go to school at 8:15 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. She also said that the setup of the schools in the U.S. is different from what they have in Italy. In Italy, there is not one unified building for school. 

“The school is much bigger than the ones that we have because in Italy [they] have different schools for different subjects,” Santelli said.

Senior Femke Baan, a foreign exchange student from the Netherlands, also decided to move to the U.S. 

“I always [wanted] to [improve my] English and the U.S. looked, to me, as the perfect country to learn it. The U.S. is, in my opinion, a really interesting country. It’s really different from the Netherlands, [especially] the language and the food, ” Baan said. 

The U.S. is, in my opinion, a really interesting country. It’s really different from the Netherlands, [especially] the language and the food, ” Baan said. 

— Femke Baan

Baan expressed similar feelings related to Santelli’s struggles. In addition to getting used to school, Baan said she also struggled with the different environment and language. For instance, Baan said that she was used to having an hour-long lunch in the Netherlands, not the 20 minutes at BVNW. 

Baan noted that when she first arrived in the U.S., speaking English was a bit of a struggle for her. After being here for a while, she said she is getting used to it and picking it up quickly. 

Adjusting to a new place, Baan said she misses her family and friends back home but is forming new connections here. Baan’s family back home consists of her dad, Erik Baan, sister, Guusje Baan, and mom Sjoerdtje Boonstra. 

Of course, I miss my family and friends. But here, I’m making a lot of new friends, like all the exchange students here. We have a group [that hangs out together],” Baan said.

Baan’s family back in the Netherlands also expressed emotion when she left. 

“On one side, we were very proud of her that she went on this big adventure. On the other side, it was pretty emotional for us to say goodbye to her and not see her in real life for almost a year,” Erik said. “[We miss] her presence in our house, her happiness, her kindness [and] her humor,”

Erik explained that Baan had talked about being a foreign exchange student for a long time and she was finally able to fulfill that dream.

“This is something she wanted from when she was little. She said ‘I want to go to a foreign country to meet new people to discover new cultures.’ At this moment, she is making her dream come true,” Erik said.

However, unlike Baan, Santelli said she does not experience the same feelings of homesickness. 

“I’m not homesick at all. I was [during] the first week when I got here. I would call my parents and [feel sad], but not anymore,” Santelli said. “It’s easy for me to get adjusted to new situations, and I love traveling. I’m kind of used to the fact that [my parents are] not going to be with me all the time.”

Santelli said that she likes the different environment and the feeling the U.S. has.

“I’m OK, here. I like the fact that it’s not just one culture and you can find people with different cultures,” Santelli said. “People are super nice, like if I find myself running or something here, people are like, ‘Oh, good morning.’ They’re very supportive. It’s all [part of the] experience that you get.” 

Santelli’s mother, Arianna Muccini, was less concerned about Elena when she said she wanted to participate in a foreign exchange program. Muccini said that she was the one who helped Santelli get all of the forms prepared before the program.
“It was not that difficult, but the week before [Santelli] left, it was awful because I realized she would not be here,” Muccini said.

Muccini said she felt good about the host family Santelli is staying with as they were able to meet them over the phone. She said it was comforting to know who Santelli was with. 

Baan is currently staying with the Wade family. Savanna Wade is a freshman. Her parents, Anita and Randy Wade said that they first signed up to be a host family after hearing about it from a friend of theirs.

Anita said Baan is fitting in right away with her family. 

“It’s been nothing but good. It’s fun. She really fits in. We get to learn a lot about her country,” Anita said. “It’s fun to watch her learn about America, and try to say words and eat new things. [We have a good time] learning about the other countries and cultures.”

Savanna also said she’s had a very positive experience with Baan joining her family temporarily. 

“It’s kind of like having a sister. It’s fun to have somebody to talk to, and bounce stuff off of,” Savanna said. “I get to annoy her and she steals my clothes and stuff like that.”

Savanna is an only child, so having another person added to the family was a big change for her, she said. However, Savanna said it is very fun and enjoyable.

Santelli’s host mother is Jan Clarkson. Clarkson is a single mother who has adopted five children from China. She said she decided to become a host mother because she thought it would be good for her children to meet people from different cultures. 

“We are a multicultural, multi-racial family, so it just made sense. For the most part, it is a very good experience,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson often will try to incorporate different ideas and learn from her host children’s cultures. For example, she said she has tried to cook more Italian dishes and go to more Italian restaurants for Santelli. 

Randy Wade, Savanna’s father, said that Baan has given them humor and taught them many new lessons.

“It’s just awesome because we’re able to take someone in from a different culture and learn from her as she’s learning from us. We get to see how they do things in a different country as opposed to how we do it,” Randy said.

Anita said she will always remember Baan and all she has taught their family when she goes home at the end of the school year.

“When she leaves it’s gonna be devastating. She’s so pleasant and helpful. And she’s just a ton of fun. Having Savanna have somebody to basically be like a sibling has been good for her,” Anita said.

Both host families said the experience was nothing but good and positive and brought pleasant memories. 

Anita said that she would definitely recommend other families to consider being host families. 

“I would tell them to really consider the people that they look at to bring over here and their interests and how they would fit into [their] family. We chose her because of her personality, but also because her interests match some of Savanna’s,” Anita said.

Baan said that being a foreign exchange student was a good choice for her. She said that she would recommend it to anyone considering becoming an exchange student. 

“The first few weeks I came here, I [could not] speak [much English]. It was really bad and I was just getting into it really slowly,” Baan said. “But, I really recommend it if a person can do it.”

Similarly, Erik said that this experience was wonderful for Baan. 

“It’s everything we wanted and it’s everything she wanted,” Erik said. “We wouldn’t change a thing.”

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About the Contributors
Sara Scheibel
Sara Scheibel, Writer
Sara Scheibel is a junior and writer for “The Express”. This is her first year on staff. Sara is involved in girls tennis, BVNW Ambassadors, and AVID. Outside of school, Sara loves to spend time with friends and family.
Inaya Zaman
Inaya Zaman, Writer
Inaya Zaman is a sophomore and a writer for “The Express”. This is her first year on staff. Along with being a part of the newspaper, Inaya is involved in Husky Headlines and KAY Club. In her free time she likes to read, hang out with friends, and binge watch TV. She also enjoys baking and cooking. She is grateful for this opportunity and looks forward to the year ahead. 
Rachel King
Rachel King, Photographer
Rachel is a junior and a photographer for “The Express”. This year is her second year on staff. Outside of the newspaper Rachel plays soccer for the school. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing soccer. Rachel is excited to be a part of “The Express” and looks forward to the year.
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