Life as an American Teen: Elisa from Brazil Finds Full Immersion in the F-1 Program

By Sarah Tolman, F-1 High School Program Coordinator

Though she’s only been in the United States for a few months, it has not taken long for Elisa to adjust to life as an American teenager. That was her goal, after all, when she applied for the F-1 High School Academic Program in the U.S.

                “I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to live in a different country, live as a teenager…an American teenager!”

The experience so far has lived up to her expectations. Elisa was placed with a great host family in the small East Coast town of Groton, Massachusetts. This is a pretty stark contrast compared to her home of 11 million inhabitants, São Paolo in Brazil. Elisa says she still prefers living in big cities but that she has loved the experience of living in a small town so far. Less chaos, beautiful changing leaves (which doesn’t happen at all in Brazil), and she’s only an hour away from the historic city of Boston. Elisa is soaking up the New England fall in the best way possible. For Halloween, she carved pumpkins with her host family, dressed up as a cat and went to a Halloween dance with her host sister (who is also in high school). They don’t celebrate Halloween at all in her home country, so this has been a huge highlight for Elisa. And though she’s only staying for one semester, she made sure that her flight home isn’t until January, so that she can experience some great American traditions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Elisa’s English level is impressive. She’s been studying English for 6 years now and has learned a lot of her vocabulary from American movies and music. Even with her advanced language level, she acknowledges that it takes a lot of courage to go up to new people and start a conversation in a language that isn’t your native tongue. She’s made that a goal to accomplish while at an American school: to gain confidence when meeting new people and improve her conversational language.

Luckily, she already feels more confident than she did when she first arrived in August. She mentions that it’s easier to meet a wide variety of people at her school here in the U.S. than at her Brazilian school, because of the different class structure:

“[In Brazil] we only have one class and we stay with this class until the end of the year, so I usually don’t interact a lot with people from other classes, so I guess here changing every day, makes me know a lot of people.”

She also noted that at her school in the U.S. (Groton-Dunstable Regional High School), in comparison to her school in Brazil, the students are more enthusiastic about the idea of being a part of a team. Though Elisa didn’t join any sports teams, she did become a member of her school’s art club. One of their activities as a club was painting students’ faces for a Friday night football game. So Elisa has found her own way to be a part of the school spirit, just another step towards immersing herself into the role of an American teen.

Apple picking in Massachusetts

Though Elisa had visited the U.S. before participating in this program, there were still some aspects of American culture that surprised her, even surpassed her expectations. She knew Americans were friendly, but has been pleasantly surprised by how truly open and interested students at her school are in learning about her home country and culture.

Her time in the U.S. is limited, but Elisa still has many things to look forward to. For one thing, she’s excited to see snow for the first time in her life. Other goals on her to-do list include: more visits to Boston, seeing a Broadway Musical and a trip to six flags with a group of international students. Squeezing in all of these awesome activities into one semester isn’t an easy task, but Elisa is up to the challenge. When she returns to Brazil, she already knows that she will miss her new friends and the American school system. Most of all, she’ll miss her host family and the fact that they are always ready to take her on different outings and partake in different activities together.

The only way to truly experience what it’s like to be a “typical American teenager,” is to be courageous like Elisa and attend high school in America.