Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Welcoming the World

Posted 05/21/2018 by Maia Freedberg

graphic by Andrew Villescas

Foreign exchange students from around the world come to TJ.

Thomas Jefferson High School enrolls foreign exchange students every year. This year, the school hosted six exchange students from all around the globe: Lucca Groen, Neils Kooij, Rodrigo Veiga, Sonsoles Mendez, Victoria Fernandez, and Victoria Lopez. These students enroll in regular classes at the school and can participate in clubs, sports, and other activities associated with student life on and off campus. Education First, a program partnered with TJ, allows students located outside of the United States to live almost anywhere in America for a school year. The program, along with the schools involved, brings cultures together, opens communities to the wider world, and creates lifelong friendships that span the globe.

Kooij is a foreign exchange student from Denmark who is currently a senior at TJ. Before Kooij decided to travel to America as an exchange student, his friend spent a semester in America and spoke highly of it, suggesting that he look into it. He did not get to choose specifically where he would travel, but he knew he wanted to spend a year abroad, so he applied for the program. He loves being in Colorado, and the aspects that stand out to him are the differences between Denmark and American culture, in and out of school. Kooij believes that socialization in America is more relaxed and encouraged than in Denmark, and the students are more involved in and are more dedicated to school sports in America. Although he is loving his time with his host parents, he does miss his friends and family; however, there is nowhere he’d rather be.

Groen, a junior from Denmark, chose to come to America because her mother was an exchange student years ago and she wanted to follow in her footsteps. Groen is involved in many activities at TJ, including gymnastics. Groen loves living in Colorado because the sun is always out, even if it is cold outside. In Denmark, the weather is cloudy and grey, so compared to Denmark, Colorado is brighter and warmer. Another aspect of her experience that she loves is her host family. Her family consists of her mother’s host-sister, from when she traveled to America as an exchange student, her husband, their two kids, and a dog. Groen mentioned, “I hate the dog and the dog hates me, but the people are so sweet.” Although she loves living with her wonderful host family, she misses her family back in Denmark, especially her little sister and her own dog. While Groen misses her family, she is focused on her current life in America. She says she has had a variety of experiences with many different people so far, both positive and negative. “The gymnastics team had a huge impact on me because it really seemed like they cared and were super nice and welcoming,” she said. Groen has loved her time in America so far, and cannot wait to see what the rest of her time here has to offer.

Veiga is another junior foreign exchange student and he is from Brazil. He decided to live in Colorado due to the weather, mountains, atmosphere, and the Denver Broncos. Other than the physical nature of the state, his favorite part about Colorado is TJ and the people he has met. He was able to participate in soccer during the fall, and met a lot of his friends in school during the season. Outside of school, Veiga enjoys spending time with his host family, or as he calls them, his second family. Veiga mentioned, “My host family helps me a lot, our relationship is just awesome.” His host family loves having a foreign exchange student living with them. His host brother, senior Andrew Seidenstat, explained, “Having Rodrigo at the house is great because he’s like a little brother to me and he’s from a foreign place, which means I get to learn a lot about a new culture.”

Fernandez is a junior from Galicia, Spain. Although she didn’t get to choose where in the United States she’d be living, she is very happy about ending up in Colorado because of the wonderful open-minded people she’s met here. Her host parents don’t have children, but they have still made her experience filled with adventure. Fernandez explains about her host family, “They do a lot of things for me. We got to go to Hawaii together, and they treated me like a real family member.” While Colorado is like a second home to her, she misses her family, friends, and the food back home.

Mendez is a junior from Spain as well, and just as Fernandez, she did not get to choose where she’d end up, however she is content with the fact that Colorado was chosen for her due to the people and the amazing scenery. She misses her friends and family from back home, but she especially misses the food. At TJ, the other foreign exchange students have had a huge impact on her, as well as ELA-S Resource Rossanda Jackson. She loves to be around her friends and host family, but is also excited to go home.

Lopez, a sophomore, as the other Spanish exchange students at TJ, was assigned to live in Colorado. However, she considers herself lucky because she loves to ski and loves the mountains. Although she misses her family, her pets, and the food in Spain, she loves being around the close friends she’s made here. Lopez considers her host family her second family; they do a variety of adventurous activities together: skiing, hiking, etc. At TJ, she is involved in a few different clubs and activities. “I really like SkillsUSA and CCT,” she explained. She has had an amazing experience so far in America and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The Spartan community is always excited to bring new faces into the school. Administrative Intern Jon Poole mentioned, “The foreign exchange students bring culture and diversity, which is exactly what we celebrate here all the time, and it’s one more layer of that for our kids. Most of them are excited to be here, and the experience is positive for them, and it is infectious. It excites students in ways they might otherwise not be excited.” The new and exciting people at TJ every year create an incredible environment for everyone.