Exchange students return to CHS after two-year lockdown


Courtesy of Aryana Mahasseni

Hosts Aryana Mahasseni and Roan Boruta welcome foreign exchange students Riccarda Pflügl and Simon Schleifer to Carlsbad High.

Faye Wescott, Assistant Editor

After two years, the foreign exchange program has finally returned since being lost to the pandemic, allowing Austrian students to travel to Carlsbad High again. The community welcomes exchange students with host families and the opportunity to learn from one another’s lifestyles. 

Rather than both schools traveling to either country, both American and Austrian students are given a unique opportunity to experience each other’s customs together. Choir teacher and co-organizer Eloy Castaneda explains the value of the program. 

“It’s an exchange of cultures,” Castaneda said. “The hosts and guides get to learn from the Austrian students while they get to encounter a new culture.”

While both hosts and campus guides help the exchange students to experience American education, they are also introduced to the extracurricular lives of hosting families. This allows the Austrian students to gain an understanding of an entirely new culture apart from their own. 

“Traditionally, the Austrian student follows their host to all their classes for two weeks,” Castaneda said. “But we encourage them to take them to any social constructs they’re involved in, whether it’s a get-together, a party, a sporting event, or anything like that.”

While some students guide the exchange students through life on campus, hosts both present their own lifestyles and show them what the rest of San Diego has to offer.

“Everyone needs a place to stay, and the host families take them on the weekends to different places to show them around San Diego,” host and freshman Aryana Mahasseni said. 

Coming to America is not only an academic experience for the Austrians but introduces them to many new opportunities. Junior Riccarda Pflügl reflects on her time here as an exchange student. 

“It’s a great opportunity to come here, and I’ve really gotten to learn a lot about the schools here and how American families live,” Pflügl said. “Just really experience what it’s like to be in America and see San Diego.”

While the trip has its educational purposes, the exchange students were able to explore San Diego and see new scenery they otherwise wouldn’t be able to in Austria.

“We got to see the Midway and visit the beach,” Pflügl said. “We don’t have a sea, so obviously it’s rare to get to experience that kind of thing.”

Not only does the program provide a learning experience for the students but seizes opportunities in fundraising. While Carlsbad High wishes to keep sustaining these programs for students to enjoy, they require donations to continue.

“If you’re hosting a student, you get $200 donated to the organization at CHS of your choice,” said Castaneda.

Although the program has existed for many years, Carlsbad High has only ever accepted students from Austria. This is due to the country’s close relations with Carlsbad’s history, and shared ownership of communities between them. 

“Carlsbad has a sister city in Austria, hence why a lot of our architecture from the 80s and 90s is very Eastern European,” Castaneda said.

Since the international outbreak of COVID-19, both California and Austria were unable to continue the program until this year. Although most of California’s restrictions were lifted in 2022, Austria’s limitations were much more strict. 

“Because of the pandemic, I believe Austria had some pretty severe rules when they went on lockdown,” Castaneda said. “So we weren’t able to continue the program for two years.”

While this year’s program ended in success, there were not nearly as many host families from CHS as anticipated. As a result, the students were divided between Carlsbad High and Sage Creek, each school hosting 30.

“I’ve had a lot of help from outside sources like Sage Creek and the administration,” Castaneda said. “But it’s been very interesting and a lot of fun just talking to people and meeting families here in Carlsbad that were interested in hosting.”