4 views of America

Foreign exchange students offer their perspectives on the state of the States

Mayla Gilliam, Managing Editor

The election, the HB-2 law, police shootings: these are a few of the issues that concern American citizens the nation. For the four foreign exchange students at our school, they’ve had to navigate these issues and a new country.

The four exchange students that are at the school this year come from a variety of places. Cristina Rus Sanchez is from a town outside of Lithia, Spain. Luisa Fischer is from Bavaria, Germany. Peeradon Karajangpho is from Thailand, and Alessio Varallo is from just outside of Naples in Italy.

For the students, America is increasingly different from their home countries. The lifestyle of the people here is very different for Karajangpho.

“The first thing is school. School. I have 7 hour, 6 hours of school. It’s 7 to 2 p.m. Me? I start at 8 and end like 5,” Karajangpho said.

For Fischer, school was also the most defining difference between her home country and America.

“There are a lot of people in this school, in my school in Germany there were only 1,000 people. We change classes and stay for four years in the same class, so we have the same people,” Fischer said.
For Sanchez, the urbanization of the North Carolina landscape is lacking behind that of Spain.

“I hate the fact that I can’t walk, I depend, like I need a car for everything, like I can’t drive, because it’s not my country, and I can’t drive until I’m 18, and it’s like I depend on my house parents for everything or for friends, and I don’t really like that so I hate that I can’t walk,” Sanchez said.

Not only have the students had to navigate the physical and cultural differences of America, they have also had to navigate the political and societal issues that are sweeping the nation, and the state.

The exchange students arrived during a very controversial time, election year. Because of the candidates running for the election this year, the debates in the country were prevalent.

“I don’t like being here in election year, because it’s like people are like arguing all the time, and what I hear all the time is about politics and stuff, and I don’t really like it,” Sanchez said.

Even though some of the students may not know a lot about the candidates, Varallo knew the most important phrase from President-elect, Donald Trump.

“I know that he wants to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., and, I don’t know, he wants to ‘Make America Great Again,’” Varallo said.

Before the election, Karajangpho predicted Hillary Clinton would secure the presidency, but her victory would leave America in ruin.

“She’s going to be the first female president and the last female president because the whole country is going to hell after this,” Karajangpho said.

In Germany, Fischer didn’t hear a lot about the election other than what she saw on the news.

“In Germany, sometimes they came on the news and I just know that, not our President, I don’t really know the name, but it’s Angela Merkel, I know that she met Trump I think,” Fischer said.

In the United States, a complicated system is in place called the Electoral College. When asked about the system, Varallo knew exactly how it works.

“I know that in each state there are some Electoral college, so if the people in the state, or the majority in the state, is for example for Donald Trump, all the electoral college, or the electoral votes, are for Donald Trump,” Varallo said.

The Electoral College system isn’t in place anywhere else in the world. The system is debated in the country, and is ridiculed in other countries around the world.

“It’s stupid. It’s just a stupid system, because if you win a state, but you can win the electoral college… if you win state, but not the electoral college there is no meaning. It’s lame. It’s meaningless then,” Karajangpho said.

Along with the political issues in the United States, social issues such as police shootings and rights restricting LGBTQ members are occurring all across the country, and even in our own state.

In a bill passed on Mar. 23, the House passed a law stating transgender people could not use the bathroom of the gender they identify with in North Carolina.

“I saw a video yesterday about that… If I am a woman, and I am now a man, I am a man, so I have a **** ,” Sanchez said. “I think that if I am a woman and am now a man, I should go to the men’s bathroom and not the women’s bathroom because I changed for a reason, because I don’t feel good with my body and now I change it, I should go to my bathroom which is the men’s. Yeah, it’s stupid.”

Varallo had a similar opinion to Sanchez’s concerning the HB-2 law.

“Oh I know the bathrooms, yeah, I think it’s silly. I think if, I think if men could go in girls’ bathrooms I think it could improve the violence against the women,” Varallo said.

Along with the HB-2 law, gun control and police shootings have been issues on the radar for North Carolina and the country after the shootings in Charlotte, San Antonio, and other areas across the country, and these issues are a reason for Fischer feeling uneasy in the country.

“I don’t feel safe because there are a lot of attacks in the news, and I have a friend, another exchange student, and I think she’s in Montana or something, and sometimes she says to me that on her phone it says there’s an attack, don’t go out of you house, so that’s why I don’t really feel safe,” Fischer said.

Guns are readily available to people in the United States. In Spain, people are not allowed to have guns and the right to use guns is reserved for the military, cops, etc. Sanchez is puzzled by the fact that Americans have such easy access to guns.

“It’s true that sometimes cops can be crazy, but they aren’t really crazy like people, so I don’t know what to think about it. It’s like, maybe it’s because I’ve lived my whole life like without guns, but I don’t like the fact that people can have guns in their power,” Sanchez said.

Fischer believes that having guns in the home poses a safety threat to the family and others.

“I don’t think that’s good because most families have, for hunting, guns at home, and the kids can use the guns. And also, I believe at the age of 14 you can go hunting, and yeah it’s a little bit strange,” Fischer said.

Police induced shootings have been a big issue in the country this year. When asked why they believe police are trigger happy, Varallo mentioned the fight or flight response all people have.

“I don’t know, maybe, the cop was, I don’t know the guy had a pistol and was intimidated,” Varallo said.

Karajangpho thinks that there are a wealth of different reasons for police shootings.

“I think that police shootings, if in justice is … if he carries it for the right reason then it will be true… I knew that, I heard in the news that police shootings are for black guys and it’s kind of racist, I’m not lying,” Karajangpho said.

With the wealth of guns in the nation, threats are always lurking for police, citizens, and visitors, which could be a source of intimidation for police.

Sanchez said, “I think it’s because they [cops] aren’t the only ones that have the power of the gun.”