It was so busy that there were no tour guides to take us around. They gave me a packet of info and I had to be the guide! Poor students, I didn't know much about the Capitol except that I used to hang around there when my mom worked there as a typist for a short while. I did have a few stories up my sleeve. I told the students about the miracle of seagulls that swooped down and ate all the crickets, saving the Mormon pioneers from famine. I also told them about my ancestor John Pack who was a scout with Brigham Young. He went ahead of the pioneers to scope things out and came back to report and help the rest of the pioneers make it safely into the valley. We pretended to be lobbyists in front of the House of Representatives. We hung around outside the doors of the Senate where important things were happening. I saw 2 people I knew! One was my primary teacher/across the street neighbor growing up--now attorney. The other my cousins husband, also an attorney. The students didn't think this was as awesome as I did because "everybody in Utah knows each other?? duh!" We were off to a good start.
We met up with another coordinator and her group of 20 or so exchange students for lunch. ( we planned this ahead of time) The students then had the awesome opportunity to meet with the State Superintendent over the schools. We had the students go up by country, introduce themselves and where they were from, then share one thing they like about school in America and something they think we could do better. We had students from Hong Kong, Brazil, Columbia, Kazakhstan, Germany, Finland, Montenegro, Denmark, Italy, and Spain. What a geography lesson. I get to hear these kind of conversations all the time from my students and now they were able to share it with someone who had the power to do something about it! It was hard to contain my excitement!
The State Superintendent took notes as he listened to these students. All the students agreed that school in America was WAY EASIER than what they were used to. In fact, many were worried that they will be behind academically when they return home. Alex from Italy said that in his country he was required to take every branch of science and here you can only choose one or two in High School. Anastasia from Montenegro wondered why Americans only get to learn a foreign language in high school or middle school. That is too late! She started learning languages in school in kindergarten. She can speak 4 languages and that is not unusual for Europeans. The Spaniards complained of school lunch. They get a 2 hour break to return to their homes and eat lunch before going back. Renato from Brazil was surprised that athletes miss so much school for traveling to play sports. Shouldn't school be more focused on academics? All the students agreed that teachers here are more like friends and they liked that. They also loved the "school spirit" that exists here and the whole social aspect of dances and "prom." We Americans may not take our studies too seriously but we do have fun!