New school, new language, new customs

Fernanda Vasconcellos of Brazil, Seaside's Sam Thornton, Mathilda Gunleiksrud of Norway, Arthur Brugneratto Prada of Brazil, participants in the district's foreign exchange program.

Among the 461 students enrolled at Seaside High School this year are three exchange students from overseas.

Arthur Brugneratto Prada and Fernanda Vasconcellos, both of Brazil, and Mathilda Gunleiksrud of Norway appeared with returning exchange student Sam Thornton at the school district’s board of directors meeting Tuesday night.

“I’m really enjoying my time down here,” Vasconcellos said. “Last weekend I went to my first football game. I couldn’t understand what was going on, but it was fun.”

Gunleiksrud, of Dolmen, Norway, will be living with her host family for the year. So far she’s traveled to Cannon Beach, Nehalem and Portland, and will be visiting Boston in November. She plans on participating in the drama club’s fall play. She likes her host family’s home cooking and the availability of local takeout food.

Brugneratto Prada, a senior, said he liked the electives at the high school. The most fun he’s had in the U.S. was at a wedding in the California redwoods. “It was really cold,” he said, before adding, “Every day here is really cold.”

He plans on joining the wrestling team and participating in the Key Club.

The exchange program has a long history at Seaside High School, said Natalie Osburn, the school’s assistant principal. Students typically take their exchange period during their junior year because they want to spend their senior year with peers.

Thornton returned from a year in Mexico. “I went in with no Spanish at all,” she said.

Thornton lived with two host families and developed her language skills by speaking Spanish every day. “I really connected with them,” she said. “I met some of the best friends of my entire life.”

Shayla Tsuji, a senior from Seaside who went to Brazil last year as an exchange student, was not at the school district meeting, but in a letter read by Osburn, said the experience brought “not only new friends, but new dreams.”

“I am still in contact with many of my friends from the trip,” Tsuji wrote. “I left an average high school student, and came home with a Brazilian heart.”

Osburn said she expects this year’s visitors to Seaside to fit right in. “I’ll check in two or three times formally to see how they’re doing,” she said. “But the students at Seaside are so wonderfully inclusive and are so excited to hear from students from around the world, that they really get involved in activities and have the opportunity to get to know different cultures without traveling themselves.”


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