Foreign court

Exchange students find comfort participating in athletics while abroad

March 4, 2015

A blanket of blue and gold covers the packed home bleachers. The Friday night lights gleam off the helmets as the players take the field. The crude chants of the student section overpower the more innocent and choreographed ones of the cheerleaders. The roar of the crowd and the shot of a cannon as the home team scores a touchdown. The school song begins to play and fans sing along, knowing the words by heart.

To most students this sounds like the average home football game. To students from a different country, it was a scene they thought only existed in movies.

“Here the high school is amazing and everybody watches,” exchange student and junior varsity soccer player Joao Guilherme Leáo said. “In Brazil they don’t have school spirit like that.”

Every year the high school hosts numerous exchange students, many of which choose to involve themselves in athletic programs. This year, over half of the 25 exchange students have made the decision to put on a Buccaneer uniform.

English as a second language teacher, Ben Lawrence, believes that getting involved in any extracurricular activities, but especially sports, helps the students develop their English skills and allows them to immerse themselves in American culture in a different way.

“I wish I could require (getting involved),” Lawrence said. “It changes their experience. It changes what they think of America, what they think of Grand Haven. Being apart of a team is really like nothing else that you can experience.”

When coming to a foreign country, some exchange students struggle to adjust to life here. But adapting to the culture has been made easier for Brazilian exchange student Manuela Lacreta through her participation on the junior varsity cheer squad.

“It’s better for you to make friends, to be apart of something,” Lacreta said. “You can tell that you are helping the team in someway. Even if you’re not really good, you are a part of something.”

The junior varsity competitive cheer team is just one of the many athletic teams were exchange students have found their way onto the roster. Competitive cheer coach, Gabrielle Torossian, believes that not only do the exchange students benefit from taking part in the sport but the team does as well.

“They bring new eyes to things, we get to see (sports) in a new way.” Torossian said.  “We get to explain things to them that we normally wouldn’t. It adds diversity to the team. We love it.”

Some of the students feel they need to maintain the athletic element, even when they are studying overseas. When coming to a different country one is exposed to cultural and language barriers. Exchange students find a way around those barriers by being in a sport.

“I decided to join skiing because no matter where I am I can’t last without competition,” skier and exchange student Jocelyn Charrud said. “It makes you feel part of the school.”



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