PAYETTE — Jennifer Jacob had never seen snow before arriving in Payette this past summer; that’s because she’s lived in Nigeria her whole life.
Jacob came to Payette through the Academic Year in America foreign exchange program, a nonprofit organization which supports cultural exchange to foster global citizenship and emphasizes international understanding, according to the organization’s website.
People signed up through the program are able to host high school students from 40 countries across the globe.
After a brief stay in Washington D.C. with her fellow exchange students, Jacob arrived in Payette in August, the 17-year-old said.
“You get to share your culture,” she said when asked why she signed up for the opportunity to travel to the U.S. “The world is a big place.”
She was given the opportunity to share her culture earlier in the school year at Payette High School along with her fellow exchange students through International Education Week. During that week, each day is dedicated to the countries of the exchange students, said Marci Holcomb, assistant principal at the high school. The exchange students were able to present information about their culture in different classes, usually tied to the theme of that class, Holcomb said. For example, a foreign exchange student would talk about food from their country in a food and nutrition class.
“They’ve been really welcomed into the Payette High School family and community,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said the response from students throughout that week was a positive one.
It wasn’t always easy for Jacob, however when she first arrived in Payette.
“At first, I didn’t know how to speak English very well,” she said. “People in the school were very helpful, though.”
Besides receiving help from those students with her English, she also attributes what she refers to as her “English improvement” to her speech class.
“I took the class because I wanted to become fluent talking in front of people,” she said.
That’s not the only part Jacob has liked about her experience. There’s also Pirate Fridays, a school tradition that rewards students with good behavior and attendance with longer lunch breaks and other perks.
“It’s crazy,” Jacob explained. “They’re all into it.”
Reaction to the American diet has been a point of interest for exchange students, but Jacob said she has had no issues getting used to the food. Lasagna has come to be her favorite dish so far. In that same vein, Jacob said one of her favorite classes is food and nutrition.
“I really like getting to make different foods in class,” she said.
Even though her adjustment to American cuisine has been relatively smooth, there have been some differences in the schooling structure compared to that of northern Nigeria.
Instead of one school year consisting of two semesters, schools in Nigeria typically have three terms, Jacob explained. Also, classes never have mixtures of different grade levels in Nigeria.
Jacob will stay with her host family until June, when she will return to her home country, however, “I will probably come back to the United States,” she said.
Jacob’s goal is to become a nurse, so she can “take care of old and sick people.”