Opening their lockers and learning how to navigate the lunchroom are common worries for any new high school student.
However, these challenges can become more daunting for a student who speaks limited English.
Just ask Yu Miyamori, a Youth for Understanding USA foreign exchange student from Nagoya, Japan, who is attending Lakeside High School this year.
Even though Yu, 16, was accustomed to bringing lunch from home and eating in her homeroom at her school in Japan, she is learning to adapt to American customs. She said lunch is one of her favorite activities at Lakeside, because she can talk to friends.
Yu is taking drama, physical education, chorus, world history, comparative literature and algebra II.
"I like algebra. It's easy for me. Chorus is fun," she said.
She said Japanese students wear uniforms, and the Japanese schools have stricter rules than American schools.
American students are more "active, aggressive" than her Japanese friends, she said, consulting her pink electronic dictionary. However, she also said the Lakeside students have been "tender, kind, gentle" when she has needed help.
She also has had to adjust to changing classes each period.
"Japanese students don't have to move from homeroom. Teachers are moving," she said.
School Superintendent Charles Nagle says 11 foreign exchange students currently attend Columbia County schools. Each must meet specified qualifications and have a local sponsor.
Yu is living with Pamela Kolarich, a Lakeside Middle School teacher who was a foreign exchange student to Japan when she was in high school. Kolarich also has served as host to two other foreign exchange students in previous years.
"I love opening my home to them so they can have a place they feel welcome," she said.
Kolarich, who last had an exchange student in her home in 2000, said the process has been easier this time.
"In the past, we really didn't get to communicate beforehand. But now with technology, we got to e-mail before we even met," she said.
Kolarich discovered that pink is Yu's favorite color, and she learned what type of music her new "daughter" liked before she arrived in America. As a result, Kolarich was able to add some personal touches, such as a pink bedspread, to Yu's new room.
Yu has discovered some definite advantages to attending school in the United States.
"I don't have to clean school," she said. "It's good."
Kolarich spent time in Japan in the summer of 2007 when she was awarded a Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship for teachers. She said Japanese students have to clean their schools.
Yu would like to be an English interpreter and guide one day. She said she hopes to travel and go to baseball games while she is in the United States.
"I want to be good English speaker, and I want to make many American friends," said Yu.
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