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Nine well-adjusted teens have traveled from the other side of the world to attend Burroughs High School
this year as foreign exchange students.
“These are the most awesome kids,” said BHS Counselor Shari Rosenberg. “We haven’t had one
problem with this group. Everyone’s been so positive! They’ve made wonderful contributions to the school.”
Exchange students bring upbeat attitudes to
Burroughs High School
By LINDA SAHOLT,
News Review Correspondent
All the students speak English well. From Italy came Denise Bonetti and Dario Bocchini. Finn Luevm came
from Germany, Noemie Ruelle came from Belgium and Rocio De Lacy Ballares hails from Spain.
Altangerel Zandanshater, who goes by “Andy,” came all the way from Mongolia. Minh Ngo came from Viet
Nam, Cho Suryeon came from South Korea and Patchara-pom Lerlertvichaya (Trong) came from Thailand.
These students clearly interact well with one another and their American friends and are relaxed and
comfortable at BHS. When asked to talk about their experiences both here and abroad, all spoke up readily.
How did they feel about BHS and Ridgecrest?
“It’s a very fun little town with very nice people,” said Finn.
Patcharapom’s host family lives on base. “It’s very safe,” she said.
“I live in a small village in Italy, but I feel like there’s more of a real community here,” said Denise.
“I love it! This school is totally different,” said Noemie. “Also, it’s great being able to travel to other famous
places in California. They’re all so close.”
“It’s more fun here,” said Rocio.
“The town may be small, but the people here make this place different,” said Andy. “Mostly what I like here
is we have counselors like Mrs. Rosenberg and we can talk to them. There are no counselors in Mongolia.”
“We have a president and vice president of the class to help the teacher,” said Minh.
“The principal and teachers really care about the students,” said Denise. “In Spain we don’t have ROP
classes. I like these,” said Rocio. “In Mongolia, you can’t choose your own classes,” said Andy. “Here, you
“It’s really friendly,” added Dario.
“We clean our classrooms on Saturdays,” said Andy. “We have to clean our classrooms every day in
Thailand,” Patcharapom chimed in.
“Sports are really important here. In Spain, there are soccer teams, but only because the players want to
do that. Sports are not important and nobody goes to the games,” said Rocio. She praised the many school-
spirit activities held at BHS. “Some countries have no sports at all in school.”
“In South Korea, we go to school from nine o’clock in the morning and finish at 11 o’clock at night. All day
we study, study — no P.E., no music, no art,” said Cho.
Did they have any preconceived ideas about the U.S. that turned out not to be true?
“Before I came here, I thought there would be a lot of segregation, but when I got here, I saw mixed
marriages and friendships between the groups,” said Denise.
“You hear so much bad stuff about black and Mexican people and then you meet them and they’re not like
that at all,” said Rocio.
“I thought there would be bullies and fights with the food,” said Andy. “I thought people would not accept
me, but it’s not like that. I thought at first the football guys would be mean to people, but they’re not.”
“I thought it would be like 21 Jump Street,” said Minh. “America was founded by immigrants so immigrants
“I thought there would be more fat people, but they’re just like normal,” said Noemie. “I’m the only one here
who lost weight,” added Minh. All the girls agreed they gained weight during their stay here.
“I came here to learn English,” said Rocio. “So did I,” said Andy. “You came here to get girls!” teased Minh.
What have they gotten to do here that they couldn’t do or hadn’t done in their home countries?
“There’s more restrictions on what you can do here,” said Dario. “It’s like teenagers can’t do anything.”
“Parents here seem to be more strict,” said Denise. “In Mongolia, teens can get out of their house and get a
job any time they want, once they can drive,” said Andy.
“I took a train alone once and went to Florence and people said, ‘You went alone?’ like it was something
dangerous,” said Denise.
“Do you think teens are more protected here?” asked Rosenberg.
“It’s not like they don’t care, they trust us,” said Dario. “If I tell my mom where I’m going, she’s O.K.”
“I can be out until 10, but after that, my mom calls. It’s dangerous in my town,” said Andy. “You just have to
let them know.”
“You guys all have great public transportation in your countries,” said Rosenberg. “We have taxis
everywhere,” said Minh. “Here, where are the taxis?”
“Their English was good when they came here, and now they’re even better,” said Rosenberg. “Some of
them are even dreaming in English.”
Some of the students said they dreamed about each other and their American friends. “I don’t dream a lot,
and not in English,” said Andy. “When you dream about us, are we speaking Mongolian?” quipped Finn.
All agreed that their time spent in Ridgecrest is one of the highlights of their lives.