by Andie Conlon
Shaira Bedi is a fifteen-year-old from an urban area in India. She lives with her mother, father, grandmother and brother. Her school, a K-12 school much like Chadwick, is one of the best schools in her area. Bedi is here for two and a half months as part of the Roundsquare exchange program. “I leave the day before your finals,” she explains with a smile.
Back in India, visiting Roundsquare student Bedi’s day starts off much like it does here as a student at Chadwick School.
Bedi wakes up early, has classes for most of the day, participates in extra-curricular activities in the afternoon, and ends her day with homework. Despite these similiarities, Bedi’s life in India is vastly different from the life she is experiencing in America and at Chadwick School.
“Well, both schools have people, books and very good teachers, but other than that, they are completely different,” said Bedi.
One of the things that most surprised Bedi was how “relaxed and chilled out” Chadwick is in comparison to Vivek High School, the school Bedi attends in Chandigarh, India. While Chadwick has rules that some students consider strict—blocking facebook, having areas assigned for backpacks, an afternoon tardy meaning a detention—Bedi explains that her school has way more rules in comparison to Chadwick.
“In our school, we have uniforms. We are supposed to get up when the teacher enters. We do not change classes like [at Chadwick]. We have assigned seats and we don’t sit wherever we want to. The list goes on: we aren’t allowed to eat in or after class, and no Ipod, no phone, no headphones and no internet at school. None of that is allowed,” said Bedi.
With changes in her daily routine (in India, her school day ends at 2:00 p.m. and she has lunch at home every day), different styles of teaching math and science classes and new foods to get used to, it is no surprise that Bedi’s biggest challenge has been “adjusting to a new lifestyle.”
Sophmore Catalina Simmons and her family are hosting Bedi during her stay. Simmons was inspired to volunteer as a host after hearing about the Roundsquare Program at an assembly. In the past, Biesman-Simons and her family have hosted visiting students from France, Germany, Scotland and Wales.
“People always bring new cultures and experiences with them and it’s interesting to learn what different people find surprising about America,” said Simmons. “We’ve learned about the ways people live and [about the] social norms and unspoken rules that we take for granted.”
On Bedi’s first day, she felt that although the transition was sudden, the community helped her immensely.
“Before I entered school, I had these butterflies in my stomach and stuff,” said Bedi. “But it turned out to be better than I expected, especially because the people here were very warm and, you know, they helped me around. I’ve made some really great friends now.”
Bedi has found her place at Chadwick, joining both the swimming team and the Improv class. Swimming and soccer are her favorite activities in India, although in India, extra-curricular activities are done out in the community rather than in school. Bedi’s favorite class is Mr. Detloff’s English class. Math, on the other hand, has been the most challenging.
“Everyone used to say that math is easier abroad because, in India, math is really tough,” said Bedi. “However, the terms used in class, are different than in India, making the class very challenging.”
Still, Bedi is enjoying new ways of learning, including class projects.
“The exchange is about what you give and what you take. I am here to learn about whatever comes and then pass it forward to people in India.”
Both Simmons and Bedi recommend involvement in international exchange. “Hosting is always fun, interesting and a great way to share our culture with other,” said Simmons.
Bedi has this advice for other students hoping to study in America: “To the students looking to go to America, they should make the best of the opportunities they get here. Also, they should go have a blast. This chance won’t come again.”