Puth Sopherk shares his enthusiasm about studying abroad at Avondale High School in Detroit. Finer moments of his exchange include eclectic classes, refreshing festivities and unusual travels
What prompted you to study abroad?
My uncle had been to California and he wanted me to study in the US, so I applied at my school to study there.
What did you need to do to become an exchange student?
I got the information from the administration at my school. The first step is you take a test and if you pass they will show information about families that want to host students and I could check information on the Internet about what it would be like. I could send emails to my host family and know about them.
How was the transition to living there?
The host family didn’t have any kids of their own, but they had hosted an exchange student from Germany about five years previously.
They were waiting for me and they had seen pictures of me so they called my name.
I was so tired so I didn’t talk much. The flight was more than 24 hours. I flew from Phnom Penh to Taipei, Los Angeles and then Detroit. It was my first time flying.
I was there just one week and I started school. The first week I went to the school to sign up, I got my books and things and then it started.
Did it affect your perception of America when you were there?
No. It looked the same as on American movies.
The other students were quiet to me for the first week. Then they made small talk after that, asked about me. There were some of Asian students there, students from other countries. I went to the public school so they had the general population there.
What classes did you take there?
Trigonometry, art, gym, science, US government, principals of business management. In English class we studied the tragedies.
How were classes different there?
In Cambodia all of the students stay in one classroom. In America we have to go to different classrooms for different subjects.
There were a lot of lockers for the students everywhere in the halls.
They had a swimming pool and a big gymnasium, a library and science labs.
The size of classes were about the same.
How did you benefit from studying in America?
The first month was hard to study but I got some tutoring from some teachers, and my host family spent time with me at night to help me with my studies.
It was different having classes in English all day. It really helped my English, and it was a great experience to see another culture.
Did you have time for fun while you were there?
During Khmer New Year I cooked for my host family. I found the ingredients at an Asian market.
It was the first time I cooked but it was good. I made eggplant curry soup.
In the winter we all went to Florida for a holiday one week. We went to DisneyWorld, Sea World and Universal Studios. We went to the beach.
Florida was beautiful. It had sunshine and a lot of lights at night.
It was too exciting for me to get homesick.
Interview by Jet Odrerir