Exchange students expand our world

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by Lark Palma

We are fortunate this year to welcome six exchange
students from four countries to the Upper School. I am
grateful to the generous families who are hosting exchange
students, and especially to the student hosts who will serve
as cultural guides and navigators this year.

Surely our exchange students will come away from their
year at Catlin Gabel with a better understanding of the
United States than they had before. They will learn about
our culture in general: Halloween, mid-term elections,
North American football. They also will come to know
Catlin Gabel’s culture: the Rummage Sale, calling teachers
by their first names, collaborative learning.

Our exchange students will learn a great deal from us
during their year at Catlin Gabel. At the same time, we
have so much to learn from them. We gain knowledge
from reading about world affairs and studying the history
of other countries, but nothing compares with sharing
firsthand stories. World affairs examined from personal
experience expands our points of view tremendously.
Briefly, I would like to introduce you to our students from
abroad. They hope to find ways to share some of their
experiences with teachers and students at all grade levels,
further benefiting our community.

Tumisang “Chop” Mothei, a senior, lives in Jwaneng,
Botswana, on the perimeter of the Kalahari Desert. He is
a member of the Mokgatla tribe and attends the Maru-a-
Pula International School, which is fashioned on the British
model. Chop loves music and has been a DJ at a local club.
Thanks to the Butman family for hosting Tumisang.

Dastan Salehi was born in Iraq to a Kurdish family who
fled to Turkey when he was a baby. Life in Turkey was
very hard for Dastan’s family, and they sought permission
to emigrate to Europe. They were given permission to
enter Denmark, where he has lived most of his life. When
the Danish public schools deteriorated and racism toward
dark-skinned people increased, Dastan’s family moved to
Valencia, Spain, where he was enrolled first in a British
school, then an American school. A self-described soccer
fanatic, Dastan, a sophomore, has been an awesome
addition to the varsity boys’ team. Our thanks go to Carla
Wentzel and Fred Miller, who met Dastan’s family in Spain
and are sponsoring his year in the United States.

Vivi Feng’s Chinese name is Yuan Feng. A junior, she
goes by Vivi in English because V is her favorite letter,
which, she says, “shows my personality: vivacious, vibrant,
and valiant.” Vivi is keen on art, especially calligraphy,
which she has studied since she was eight years old. She is
enjoying the opportunity to play several sports and plays
volleyball for the Eagles this fall. If only we had a Ping-
Pong team – she is very good at table tennis. Thanks to the
Roe family for hosting Vivi.

Cui Xialong and his family hosted current senior Andrew
Jones last year in China. We are so pleased that Andrew
and his family decided to reciprocate by inviting Xialong to
spend his senior year in Portland. Xialong is from Beijing,
where his favorite thing is the food. With 15 million people
in the city, it is not surprising that Xialong’s school has
2,000 students who study math, Chinese, English, physics,
chemistry, biology, and politics. His favorite subject is
math. He plays basketball and soccer and loves to sing.
Influenced by Andrew, Xialong’s favorite band is Green
Day.

Pia Hoppenberg, a junior, hails from Hiltrup, Germany,
a suburb of Münster, where she attends Kardinal-von-
Galen-Gymnasium, an Episcopal private school. She
enjoys studying languages and is adding Spanish this year
to her repertoire of German, French, and English. Pia plays
volleyball at CGS. Thanks to the Orban family for hosting
Pia.

Fabian Weiss lives near Frankfurt in Hofheim, Germany,
where he plays soccer and tennis and studies piano. Fabian
speaks several languages including English, French, and
some Spanish. A junior this year, his favorite subjects
are history and biology. He plays soccer, is a fan of snow
skiing, and has a keen interest in acting and listening to
music (mostly Beatles and indie music). The Davies family
graciously hosts Fabian.

In addition to our six exchange students, junior Luke Jin
from South Korea and senior Lorenzo Rabello from Brazil
are in their second years at Catlin Gabel. Luke lives with
the Gross family, and Lorenzo lives with his older brother,
who works for Nike.

Increasing the scope of our exchange programs enriches
our community. This involves not only hosting exchange
students, but also sending our own students abroad during
their junior year. This year’s senior class includes four
students who studied abroad last year through the School
Year Abroad program (SYA). Evan Matsuda (Spain),
Colby Mills (Italy), Andrew Jones (China), and Stephanie
Roe (China) returned to Catlin Gabel this fall full of
stories, self-confidence, terrific second language skills, and
broadened outlooks. Their enthusiasm for their host
countries is infectious. Their classmates benefit from their
new perspectives on cultures, history, politics, and different
types of schooling. I encourage freshmen and sophomores
to talk to our exchange students and to the seniors who
lived abroad last year to find out if a year abroad suits their
sense of adventure and academic goals.

This year four juniors are studying abroad through SYA,
and Ele Wilson is spending the year attending school in
Greece and living with relatives. When Ele, Robert Bishop
(China), Kay Cadena (France), Emma Northcott (Spain),
and Angali Cadambi (Spain) return next year, our global
perspectives will be enhanced all the more.

Catlin Gabel is lively with young people who are reaching
out, learning from each other, and bringing the rest of us
along with them on their global adventures.

Bio information, provided by the exchange students, first
appeared in CatlinSpeak, the Upper School newspaper.