Isadora from Brazil


Brazilian exchange student Isadora Coimbra can usually be found practicing tennis after school with the SMHS Tennis team for two hours each day. When she is not practicing her tennis skills, she is usually doing her homework at home.

Isadora Coimbra is joining us from Goiânia, Brazil for this school year. In Brazil, she would go to school everyday from 7A.M. to 1P.M. After school, She enjoyed participating in her school’s Investment Club where she would learn about the stock market. When she finally found some time in her busy schedule, she would hang out with her friends and travel.

“I mostly wanted to participate in the foreign exchange program to learn the language, but I also have had a desire to study a year abroad.” Isadora mentioned. She chose to come here because she thought everything was nice and organized here when she visited for the first time.

When asked what the biggest difference between the U.S. and Brazil was, she said: “Here in the U.S., there are laws, and people respect them. That doesn’t happen very much in Brazil. The people here also have a better quality of life.”

Isadora is enjoying her time here in the States. She has met nice people and seen beautiful places. She is exciting about the upcoming year and believe it will be a great one. “I want to thank everyone for being so nice to me,” she said, “I wish the whole bearcat family a good year!” Isadora also have some amazing plans for her future. She intends to attend university in Brazil and major in economy.

Anna Kumada from Japan


“The Japanese royal princess goes to my school.” Anna Kumada, an exchange student from Japan, said me as we made our way through the hallway. Anna was both polite and energetic as she shared her story while her earrings caught the light and sparkled.

Surprisingly, Anna does not miss Japan all that much. “I never miss Tokyo,” she let out a nervous giggle, “it’s a very humid city.” Perhaps her excitement to arrive at this new country has to do with her experience too—turns out Anna was born here. But this is the first time she has returned to America ever since she moved back to Japan at the age of one.

Although Anna has a close connection to this country, she still needs some time to get used to the new environment since the American school system is totally different from the Japanese one. “We have Home Room,” Anna explained, “People in the same Home Room have classes together.” The classes are different as well. “For juniors, we can choose either ‘literature and history course’ or ‘math and science course’. “ But Anna doesn’t seem intimated by the big change. “I like SMHS more than my Japanese high school.” she admits.

During her free time, she enjoys watching Youtube videos. She also won’t hesitate to curl with a book on a lazy day. No wonder her favorite saying in Japanese

Erik Dahlstrom from Sweden


Walking into the physics classroom in his orange and white football uniform, Erik Dahlstrom, an exchange student who was both born and raised in Sweden, turns people’s heads with an air of confidence. This should not come as a surprise to those who know him: his sport record screams for attention. He has been a tennis coach for nine years in Sweden; he enjoyed playing football until he broke his collarbone (ouch!). Need any more proof that Erik is possibly the most passionate athlete you have ever met? He even claims that weight lifting is his favorite class this year.

Used to the cold weather in Sweden, Erik is surprised after he arrived at the sunny California, especially now that he doesn’t need to put on a T-shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket to keep him warm. He lives with his host family near Burlingame High School. Erik lives on an Island back home, and using a ferry is his only way to get to school. Erik also has a love for music, especially rock-n-roll. He plays guitar for 8 years and joined a band back in Sweden.

Breana Picchi, junior, agrees that Eric is a great athlete. “He has only been here for 3 weeks, but he already adjusts so well into the American culture,” said Breana. True to Breana’s words, Erik can’t wait to improve English. Erik is currently taking English 5-6 along with his peers in the junior class.

Maria Arellano: A Girl Who Truly Belongs to America


Meet Maria Arellano, a sophomore exchange student from Spain. Considering America as her “second home”, Maria connects to American teenage girls in so many different ways: she enjoys listening to One Direction, going shopping, and watching Gossip Girl. Former Journalist Jean Ye interviewed her recently. Read along to find out more about this new member of our bearcat family! 

Q: Hi, Maria! Can you tell me something about your journey? Where are you from? Can you tell me your first impression of America?

A: I’m from Mallorca, Spain. Mallorca is an island, and it is really beautiful. One sunny morning on August 5, I took a plane to Barcelona, from there to Paris, and from there to San Francisco. It is like the fifth time I’m in the USA. The other times I was in the best summer camp ever, so I remember the first thing that I thought when I arrived here was something like “at my second home again”. I was really happy of being here again.

Q: Can you tell me more about the summer camp?

A:The summer camp is in Occidental (Sonoma), and, for me, it is the best camp ever. We did a lot of cool games, and the people and the counselors were great. Once a week, we went to the beach and had a dance. It was a great experience.

Q: How did you feel when you left your hometown, your family, and your friends behind?

A: I felt sad, of course; I really love my family, and I have very good friends in Spain.

Q:Is school back home different from school in America? Are there any differences between the two school systems?

A: So my school in Spain is a school only for girls, and it is really small (there are only 15 girls in my class). We have to wear uniforms. We also don’t have lockers. In Spain, the students don’t have to change classrooms; it is the teacher that comes to our class. So I’m really really happy that I am in San Mateo because it is great, and I love the school. I also like the people; they are super nice.

Q: Back at home, what do you enjoy doing when you have time?

A: I like going shopping with friends, going to the movies, hanging out in someone’s house, going to the beach in summer…

Q: Can you name some differences between your home country and America?

A: Some food is different, and also the houses are a little different (and the little towns). The clothes are the same.

Q: Different food? What is your favorite dish here then? Is there a particular restaurant that you are in love with?

A: I think what is more different is that there are more fast food chains. My favorite dish here is pumpkin pasta that my host mum makes.

Q: After your adventure ends, will you miss the school and your friends here?

A: Just thinking about having to go back…I really feel that I am going to miss everybody, especially all my friends because they are awesome! They are great: the best friends anyone could have. I am trying to convince my parents to stay more. I will also miss the school because it is better than the one I go to in Spain.

Q: If you could bring your friends to your hometown, where would you take them?

A: I would show them the downtown and the shops; we would go to a typical restaurant.

Q: What’s your favorite sentence in your own language?

A: Vive cada dia como si fuera el ultimo, nunca tendras la oportunidad de vivirlo otra vez (live every day like it was the last one because you are never going to live it again).

A word from Japan! こんにちは!


Hello, my name is Yuriko Tsuchie and I am an exchange student from Japan. I came to the United States August 8 and flew all the way from Narita to the U.S. and I live in Hillsdale with a host family and in this family I have two younger sisters.

When I left Japan I was really excited but also very nervous. It turned out to be a great experience even if right now there are some things that I miss from Japan.

The school system is different: the school starts in April and ends in March; some schools go on Saturdays too. We have just three years of high school.

School takes a lot of free time of the teenagers’ life: we usually don’t have a lot of activities and hobbies, but we essentially study.

When I don’t have a lot of homework I like to go to the Hot Springs and use Purikura with my friends. Purikura is a fun way to take pictures with your friends that allows you to write statements on the pictures and put graphic elements such as hearts, and stars. And it’s one of the things that I like most

The main difference between the Japanese people and the Americans is that here people are more friendly. When in Japan we are more shy and don’t start a conversation with people that we don’t know.

I like it here, and one of the first things that impressed me was the size of everything! Everything is huge!

If I think about how I felt when I left, I feel really different now, and I know that I have just three months before I have to leave, so I want to enjoy the American life!

Giulia Rotunno: With Love from Italy

Giulia smiles for the camera. (Photo by Victoria Xiao)

Giulia smiles for the camera. (Photo by Victoria Xiao)

Hey guys! My name is Giulia, and I am an exchange student from Italy with AFS, the volunteer organization that let me and other exchange students stay here at San Mateo High School. Right now I live with a host family whose son and daughter go to Hillsdale High School. I came to the United States in August, and I am going to stay here until the end of June for my exchange experience.

Leaving home, my family, my friends, and completely changing habits was not easy. Everything is different, including the school system.

In Italy we go to high school for five years, and when we are in 8th grade we have to decide on a high school that is specialized in just one field (e.g. humanities, sciences and math, culinary art, electronic and hydraulics, etc). You can not choose your classes at all: you take all the classes the school offers. We go to school on Saturday and we don’t have school spirit or sports. We don’t change classmates: we have the same classmates every year.

Since we don’t have sports in school, the average teenager’s life is outside of school: students who want to be part of a team or do volunteer actions have to join private organizations, but some of them are so obsessed with school that they just study every day. Sometimes teenagers don’t hang out with schoolmates: the district doesn’t assign a school to a student based on where the student lives, but the student can choose the city and the high school based on where they would like to go. Often students live far away from each other and hanging out is hard, so friends are usually from the same city and know each other by attending the same church, Oratory or sports team.

The Oratory is my favorite place. In Italy in the 1800s, a Catholic priest, Giovanni Bosco, had the idea to let kids meet together, talking about their belief and play with each other, a place where people could make friends and play sports without paying an association, since in the Oratory there are basketball and soccer fields. Nowadays, teenagers do the same things that the kids in the 1800s did, but we also volunteer by organizing activities for younger kids and playing with them when their parents work and can’t spend time with them.

Another difference is the culture. I remember that at the orientation meetings, before we left our home country, the volunteers told us to be careful about the use of gestures and body language. Italians are known to use hand gestures a lot, and in some cultures some of the gestures can be considered rude. Other things I really enjoyed here was the holidays. For the first time I went trick or treating at Halloween (we have the same holiday in Italy, but it became popular only recently, and just for little kids), had Thanksgiving dinner and went caroling during Christmas season.

When I first came here I didn’t know what to expect from my host family and the country in general. In Italy we think that Americans are great and everyone would like to travel around here because it’s where all the great movies are made and where freedom reigns. I can see that when I talk with people: they don’t have fear to express their own opinion and that’s great! In Italy we could do that, too, but I think that we mostly fear the opinions that others will have of us if we say something they don’t agree with.

I like my exchange experience so far. I have learned a lot about myself and my personal growth, but I mostly learned a lot about American culture which helps me to understand a lot of things that happen here and in my country.