Exchange Students come to ‘Stoga


By Aditi Dahagam and Elena Schmidt, Staff Reporters

This school year, five new exchange students enter the community through the American Field Service (AFS) exchange program. Marwan Kassem, Johanna Kutzschbach, Enni Bergskaug, Vito Pampinella and Maria Bonilla came from around the world to experience life in the United States. 

Marwan Kassem

Kassem, a senior from Egypt, joined the program because he wanted to start a new chapter in his life. Some of his goals include making new friends, learning about American culture, and improving his knowledge.

“When the organization told me that I was on the final travel list, I thought that I was dreaming, but when I realized the situation, I was very proud of myself,” Kassem said.  

Not only does Kassem want to learn about America, but he also wants to share some of the qualities that he loves about his country. 

“I want to make friends from (the) U.S.A., and I want to exchange my culture, my Egyptian culture, and I want to make (an) image for Egypt,” Kassem said.  

Vito Pampinella

Back in Italy, Pampinella enjoyed riding motorcycles with his friends and going to discos at night. He loves his country because of the social atmosphere and activities.

“Italy is really fun and wonderful. It’s a very cool place to hang out with friends, watching the sun going away behind the sea.”

Pampinella also likes math and reading, so the program provided him with plenty of opportunities and resources, as well as a chance to travel outside of his home country. He describes the experience of coming to the U.S. as a dream come true because it brings new options for his future.

“America, it’s an advanced country, always open to offer work to the ones that want to work seriously. In Italy, I wasn’t feeling 100 percent involved in my life. Here, I can set real goals and so on,” Pampinella said.  

Enni Bergskaug

Bergskaug, a senior from Finland, was excited to come to the U.S. and experience the exchange program. However, she was hesitant because she thought she would be homesick, missing the things she loved the most about her country. 

“I’m so happy to be here, and I really like the school. I do miss my friends and family a lot, but I’m in contact with them almost every day,”Bergskaug said.

Soon after arriving, Bergskaug found herself noticing slight details that differed from Finland. 

“I’ve started to miss things that I thought I wouldn’t miss, like public transportation and sidewalks,” Bergskaug said. 

Johanna Kutzschbach

Kutzschbach, a German senior, was inspired to apply to the program after her best friend had applied the year before. She was taken aback when she was chosen, but also relieved.

“I was shocked, happy and very excited (because) there were a lot of troubles during the application process,” said Kutzschbach.

Upon arriving, Kutzschbach didn’t expect the heavy course load that was to come at ’Stoga. She also didn’t expect the amount of interaction between the students in the U.S. In Germany, the students remain in the same group the whole day. 

Kutzschbach said, “(In Germany) you  have to have class spirit. On a bigger scale, we don’t have the same school spirit.”

Maria Bonilla

Bonilla, a Panamanian senior, came to the U.S. to learn about American culture and improve her English. She was excited when she found out that she was part of the exchange program, but she didn’t anticipate the numerous distinctions between her home country and America.

“Everything is different. The school is really big. The people are really friendly,” Bonilla said.

One aspect of the school that Bonilla enjoys is the greater opportunity she has. ’Stoga offers a wider range of resources compared to her school back in Panama.

“In Panama, you don’t have (a) computer, you can only read and write,” Bonilla said. “My school is really small, so I don’t have (a) library.”