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Exchange students adjusting to rural life, culture

October 20, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Slow. Small. Quiet. To most residents of Franklin County, this leisurely, tranquil life among fields of corn is paradise.

For the six teenagers who traveled across the globe to study at Greencastle-Antrim High School, the pace, tone and size of southern Pennsylvania were major culture shocks.

"It's really different from my native city," said Ruslan Fakhrutdinov, 15, a native of Kazan, Russia. "The life (here) is slow and (there are) lots of cornfields."

"No one (is) in the street, there are no activities to be done around (here)," said Sangini Shah, a 17-year-old native of Gurjarat, India.

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Greencastle-Antrim High School welcomed the six foreign students into its halls for the 2009-10 school year as part of PAX, or Program of Academic Exchange.

Self-described urbanites, the students are accustomed to feeling the metropolitan pulse under their fingertips.

So life abroad has been an adjustment, rife with intense introductions to things new and different, Sangini said.

Though the students have been in the U.S. for two months on average, there are some things they will never get used to, she said.

"Where is the public transportation?" Linda Stollburges, 16, of Paderborn, Germany, asked rhetorically. "There is none."

Since day one, the students have been drinking in the culture, or at times lack there of, in Greencastle, acutely noting the stark contrasts between home and here, said Iuvilina Raischi, 17, of Soroca, Moldova.

Food and clothing are definitely cheaper in Greencastle, she said.

There is concrete there, there is corn here, Ruslan added.

"I like how different the classes are here," said Iuvilina.

Abhishek Purushotham, 17, of Bangalore, India, and Sangini said they have finished high school in India, so the courses at Greencastle are fairly simple. But that does not mean they are not learning, Sangini added.

Education in America is vastly different from the rest of the world, the students said.

In Russia, teachers announce individual grades before the entire class, while here it is private, Ruslan said.

Describing school in Moldova as comparatively more strict, Iuvilina said she was struck by the relationship between American students and their teachers.

"They (students) are not afraid of their teachers, they (students) are made to feel comfortable," she said. "I like that."

Each student had his or her own reason for coming to study in Greencastle.

"I want to improve my English to be the best translator I can be," said Ekaterina Kononova, 16, of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Others like Ruslan and Abhishek enrolled in the program to make friends and deepen their sense of culture.

Sangini said she hopes to grow through the experience, preparing herself for the diverse and difficult life of a college student.

Regardless of why they came, not one of the students regrets the decision, even though home is far across the globe.

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