Zihan Z., better known as “Dido,” is a resident of Shanghai, located in the Western part of China with a population of 25,000,000. Dido attended a boarding school in the city, where she enjoyed studying Japanese and English, plus visual arts. She also played underwater hockey.
Being close to her parents, Dido spent weekends at home in the city’s suburbs. Dido’s Dad is an independent architect, and her Mother is a free lance public relations specialist. Dido likes to spend time with her family because they have so many interests. They love to travel, and have been to many places around the world. Dido’s most-liked place to go is Japan where her favorite “J-Pop” band, “Hey Say Jump” resides.
Dido joins HIA as a visual art student, and appreciates that there are so many choices in art. She says, “it’s so much fun to study art in the afternoons.” HIA is appealing to her because everyone at the school knows each other really well. With the opportunity to explore and be independent, Dido is happy to be in America. She also savors American food, and gets to try many new restaurants with her host family. The thing she misses about Shanghai is public transportation. Dido plans to enjoy her year here, and come back to America in the future.
Luca H., comes to HIA from Saarerucken, Germany, a town of 1,200 near the French border. He attended high school in his small town where he says “soccer is very important,” and added, “soccer is very big in Germany.” To no surprise, Luca plays on a competitive soccer team and is also on a table tennis team. Luca has studied violin since he was 8 years old, and played in a city orchestra with his older brother, with whom he has a close relationship.
Luca’s Dad works at a medical company, and his Mom is a diploma biologist. His family loves to ski in the French Alps when they spend time together.
Luca is joining HIA in the music program to continue his studies in violin. He is impressed that everything is bigger in America, and he finds the small differences an adventure, such as the look of our traffic signs. He says, “people are very friendly and happy here.” Luca likes the family atmosphere at HIA and appreciates the support for exchange students to not only share experiences with each other, but with getting adjusted in America. Luca looks forward to his family coming to visit at the end of the school year.
Alizee A., is from French Reunion Island, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. Even though French Reunion is part of France, is it near China, and there are many Chinese people living on the island. At home Alizee attended a public school of 1000 students, and is a dancer. Alizee studies traditional Chinese dance, performing in the long, flowing skirts illustrative of the traditional costume. She is also a Jazz dancer and a rhythmic gymnast.
Living on an island, Alizee spent a lot of time in the water, and water sports have always been a part of her life.
The youngest in her family, Alizee has one older brother, and one older sister. She is enjoying being part of a host family in America and likes her life outside of school spending time with them. It’s especially fun to have host siblings who have artistic interests.
As a 10th grader at HIA, Alizee is continuing her dance studies. She likes the small class sizes at HIA, and is impressed with the good relationships within the school community. She states that; “this school is very special because of the depth in relationships at HIA.” Alizee wants to come back to America after her exchange is over.
Pierre M., is from Paris, France where he lived-in an apartment near Montmartre and Sacre-Cuere and attended public school. The oldest of four, Pierre has three little sisters, and therefore, welcomes the experience of living with a host family of 3 boys. Pierre’s Mom is a law teacher, and his Dad is an administrator of a contemporary art museum in Paris.
An enthusiast of athletic pursuits, playing rugby and basketball, in France, Pierre is now mountain biking and hiking with his host family. He finds that it’s interesting to see the differences in America, no matter how small, such as all the franchise restaurants, and the variety in sodas.
Pierre decided to join the exchange program to immerse in English and to experience commerce, a subject he is thinking of studying in college. Pierre is also a piano player and is continuing his studies in piano at HIA.
When Pierre arrived at HIA, he thought, “What is this? A school so small!” Now he says there are many advantages in being in a school that’s like a big family.
The one thing Pierre misses about Paris is the food, but is is also passionate about America.
Our International Students
Zihan Z. ("Dido")
Romane, from Geneva, Switzerland, says she has an amazing family with a 15-year-old sister and parents who are journalists and writers. Her father has had artistic writing jobs of all kinds, and sometimes writes about theater and the arts. Logically, the family loves to go out to art exhibitions concerts and plays.
Romane applied to the exchange program because she has always loved traveling and meeting new people. Most importantly she knew that English was a very important language in current society and wanted to be able to understand, speak and write in English.
When speaking about her arrival at HIA, Romane says, “I had not expected such a great amount of insanely talented and loving people! But, how could've I expected something like that? Hall Institute was completely different from my school at home. I attended a public school that was large and impersonal that did not teach any kind of art. HIA was just the opposite. It was much smaller, they made me feel like a family and I studied art most of the time.”
Romane elaborates that, “the teachers and students welcomed me, and immediately looked at me as a full member of the Hall family. It was the first time I took a real interest in art classes and in just one year there, I improved more in drawing, painting and playing music more than I had in the last 15 years.”
Romane found America very different from her country, and therefore found everything to be interesting. She mentions the way people interacted with each other in such a personable way, the beautiful landscapes and the food as things that made a lasting impression. She especially liked that people in America just loved dogs. Since many people live in apartments in her town and don’t own dogs, it was amazing to see and be around dogs as much as she wanted.
The thing that Romane missed about Geneva was the food, and she really missed being able to walk or ride her bike wherever she wanted.
Romane said she gained a lot of independence from her exchange year and that it changed her forever because she gained an unconditional love and trust of humankind. When she returned home she swore to herself she would never stop playing music, and she’s kept that promise by joining a band and performing in local shows. Romane is finishing high school in Geneva, then planning on taking a gap year when she graduates. Afterwards, she wants to enroll in college to study literature and philosophy.
Abbas A. - 2016-17 Abbas came to HIA from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a large city of 1,000,000 people that he describes as a colorful city, with wonderful markets, low, 6-story apartment buildings, and ambitious drivers. Due to nearby influences, he speaks four languages, including his native language of Kyrgyz, plus Russian, Turkish, and English.
Abbas attended a boarding school in the downtown area of Bishkek, and spent weekends home with his family. He stated that life revolved around the family in his country, and they were taught from a young age that family is the most important thing. He had one older sister, studying medicine in college, and a younger brother, who he enjoyed practicing Judo with, and younger sister. Abbas not only spent much of his time with his family, but also with his extended family - Aunts and Uncles - and was so close to his cousins, that he referred to them as brothers and sisters.
Applying to the exchange program for a new experience, and adventure, Abbas says that one of the most exciting times of his life was riding on the airplane on the way to America. Abbas understood the importance of knowing English for his future, so during his exchange, he especially wanted to improve his English language skills.
Abbas did not choose an art emphasis at HIA, nor was art offered at his home school. He therefore decided to matriculate through several different visual art classes, photography, drama and music classes to stretch himself and see what he was capable of doing. His favorite class in the end was photography, and he believes it will now be a lifetime hobby.
Abbas spent much of his time in America with his host family, going out to restaurants, skiing in the Idaho mountains, and teaching them to cook some of the meals from his country. Abbas won the pumpkin carving contest through his exchange program while in America, something he’s never done before. and he played basketball at the local high school. One of his favorite things was Thanksgiving, and he loved turkey dinner that his host grandma made for him. He was also impressed with the beautiful roads and highways in America, and the obedient manner in which people followed traffic rules.
Abbas focused intently on his TOEFL studies while at HIA, and passed the TOEFL during his exchange year. He appreciated the support HIA offered him in preparing to take this test.
Now attending college in Kazakhstan, and majoring in computer engineering, Abbas exclaims that his year at HIA was a turning point in getting a bigger understanding of the world and in knowing who he is in the world. Since his return to Kyrgyzstan, His family has also happily announced the addition of a baby girl.