Accomplished foreign exchange students attending local high schools

The Charlotte Observer
Lake Norman News (University City)
Friday, September 14, 2012

A new school year brings new opportunities.

“It’s all about being open to experiencing life as its happening,” said Giorgio Chessa, a 16-year-old senior attending Statesville High School.

Chessa, an exchange student from Italy, is living in Statesville with Warren and Mary Mills and their four children. He has been playing competitive soccer since he was 14 years old and will play for the Statesville Greyhounds this year.

This is his first time in the U.S., and he said it has been the best experience of his life so far.

Chessa is a part of the EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a nonprofit organization that places about 3,000 international students per year in U.S. homes and schools.

Teri Kirkpatrick, the EF Foundation coordinator for the Charlotte area, said 24 international students are attending schools in the local area this year.

The students arrived at the beginning of August so they could settle in with their host families before the school year began. On Sept. 8 the EF Foundation hosted a welcome party for all international high school students in the area at Aw Shucks Farm in Monroe.

Samuel Perelzweig, 16, of Germany attended the welcome event. He said this is his third year studying abroad; previously he studied in China and France. Perelzweig is living with Brian and Christina Westveer and their 16-year-old son, Justin, and attending Cox Mill High School in Concord.

Perelzweig is also a professional-level golfer. He won the Russian Open in 2010. He said he has been playing for the Russian national team for four years and will play for Cox Mill High School this year.

Perelzweig said he looks forward to learning more about American history and wants to research U.S. colleges where he can study sports medicine.

Emil Houlind, 16, of Denmark said, “I came to the U.S. to experience the life of an everyday American.” He also said he wanted to see whether American high school was the same as it is dramatized in many U.S. movies.

Houlind is staying with Suzanne and Mike Harrington and their three children and attending Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw.

He is interested in becoming an actor and is taking theater courses at Marvin Ridge. He had volunteered as a production assistant on Theatre Charlotte’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” Sept. 12- 13.

Back home, Houlind is known for his award-winning snowboarding career. He has been snowboarding since he was 5 years old, competitively since 2009. In 2012, Houlind won the gold medal for Boardercross and the bronze for Big Air in the Danish National Championships in Norway.

These students, as well as others representing the EF Foundation in the Charlotte area, will do volunteer work at the International Festival Sept. 29 at UNC Charlotte.

The festival represents the cultures of 50 nations. International students and community members come together to present their countries’ lifestyles through arts, crafts, costumes, dance and food. The free, public, family-friendly event has attracted crowds of 10,000 or more in previous years.

Mari Mezquita, a 17-year-old from Spain, said, “I love to move around, experience other cultures and be exposed to different parts of the world.” She’s living with Dan and Michelle Bechler and attending Providence High School in South Charlotte.

Mari also said she hopes to make the U.S. her home. She has applied to attend MIT, where she plans to study biochemistry.

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