MELHS foreign-exchange students share experience

EDWARDSVILLE – Leticia Bennasar-Lluy, Elisabeth Adhamy, Maleen Wolf and Renesha Udho-Asnani are four foreign-exchange students for the Metro-East Lutheran High School girls’ basketball team.

MELHS goes through an IHSA-approved organization that finds schools willing to host foreign-exchange students. MELHS has used the organization for almost 10 years now, but girls’ basketball coach Rob Stock said this is the first time he remembers getting basketball players through the program.

The program allows for foreign-exchange students to stay for one school year at a time.

“They work hard and it’s been fun having them,” Stock said. “It gives us as coaches and the team, in general, a different view on things. We’ve loved having them on the team.”

Leticia Bennasar-Lluy

Bennasar-Lluy is from Spain and has been in the United States since July.

“I felt like it was a good experience to grow up as a person and it’s interesting to learn another culture,” Bennasar-Lluy said. “I was pretty excited coming here.”

She has been playing basketball in Spain since she was four years old, but as a junior at MELHS, this is the first time she’s played for the school she has attended. Before, Bennasar-Lluy would have to drive 40 minutes to her basketball club.

In the beginning, Bennasar-Lluy had to get used to the different basketball jargon, which took some time but was ultimately worked on in practices.

In school, she said classes are different, but that it’s a good different.

“Classes are more interesting,” Bennasar-Lluy said. “We don’t learn from a book, but from by doing actual stuff. I memorize things better if I apply them rather than from a book.”

When Bennasar-Lluy came to the U.S., she was surprised that not a lot of Americans are as unhealthy as she thought, and that more people played sports.

“The school environment with sports is great here,” Bennasar-Lluy said. “You finish the school day and you go right to practice and you don’t have to drive to a club. And then people from your school day come to your games and that’s cool.”

She said the thing she misses the most from Spain is the food, especially her mother’s home-cooked food.

Elisabeth Adhamy

Adhamy is from southern Germany and has been in the U.S. since August.

“I always wanted to experience the American life and high school,” Adhamy said.

She never played a team sport before and only played basketball in PE class, but as a junior at MELHS, Adhamy plays basketball and is a cheerleader.

“It’s way more exciting but harder and more competitive,” Adhamy said.

Another aspect of her life that is more exciting is school. She said the classes aren’t boring since there’s more variations among the coursework and the other students at MELHS have been welcoming.

“The teachers really know you here,” Adhamy said. “The school is way better here.”

Coming to the U.S., Adhamy was surprised at how little knowledge people had of Germany and how many questions she receives about Germany and the history.

Although she didn’t experience any culture shock from being in America, Adhamy said it was different living in an area that had more country elements to it.

With so many fast and unhealthy food options nearby, Adhamy misses healthier meals back home in Germany.

Maleen Wolf

Wolf is from western Germany and has been in the U.S. since August.

“I came to get a new experience,” Wolf said.

Similar to Adhamy, Wolf had never played organized basketball before. With her only previous experience being in PE class, Wolf is now on the MELHS girls’ basketball team.

“It’s cool,” Wolf said. “You get to meet more people and have more friends.”

Wolf didn’t have language barrier issues with the different basketball jargon used in practice and said any problems she had in school was resolved by easily asking someone, since the MELHS community was so welcoming.

“The school is a lot easier here,” Wolf said.

Since MELHS focuses on more hands-on experience and application of skills rather than textbook memorization, Wolf, a junior, said it was more fun and easier than the traditional schooling she’s accustomed to.

Being in America, Wolf was surprised at how much more healthier Americans are than how she thought.

“I miss the food the most,” Wolf said. “The home-cooked food.”

Renesha Udho-Asnani

Udho-Asnani is from northern Germany and came to the U.S. at the end of the summer to experience the culture that she saw in some of her favorite American-made movies, such as High School Musical.

She previously played basketball in Germany, but only with a club team and not the very school that she attends.

“Before, all my basketball friends were just basketball friends,” Udho-Asnani said. “Now my basketball friends are also friends I go to school with.”

When she first came to the U.S., Udho-Asnani said she had to use Google Translate frequently to understand the different American lingo.

As a junior at MELHS, Udho-Asnani said she’s comfortable enough with the people around her to ask for help understanding something.

With the part of northern Germany that Udho-Asnani is from being more rural living, she wasn’t surprised or in culture shock of the environment around her. The biggest surprise to her was the fact that everyone drives a car.

‘It’s kind of funny to me,” Udho-Asnani said.

Although she misses the healthier home-cooked meals back home, Udho-Asnani said macaroni and cheese has become one of her favorite things about America.

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