The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 13, 2014

U.S. is 'dream country' for exchange student

Teen from India enjoying many activities at Conneaut High School

For the Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Conneaut High School is very happy to welcome a foreign exchange student this year from India. Ghata Vasavada, a 17-year-old junior, is Conneaut’s foreign exchange student from Rajkot, Gujarat, India.

She learned about the exchange program when other foreign exchange students came to her school to present information about the program. She decided to journey to the United States after learning what it would be like to travel to a far-away country.

“I was eager to experience life in the dream country,” said Vasavada.

She said when she was younger, her aunt and uncle lived in the United States. She always adored the traditional American gifts she received from them which contributed to her desire to explore the United States.

Prior to coming to the United States, Vasavada participated in many activities including Indian classical dance and acting classes. She was also the instructor of a dance class. When she wasn’t dancing or acting, she enjoyed spending time with her family and friends.

Vasavada’s interest in dance and music didn’t end with her departure from India; instead, it continued with her arrival to the United States. During her time at Conneaut High School, Vasavada has participated in numerous extra-curricular activities including playing trumpet in the Conneaut High School Marching Band.

“I am so excited to go to Disney World,” said Vasavada when she was asked about the marching band trip taking place at the end of the month.

She has also volunteered her time at Right Track, an after school elementary program which offers homework help to students, and participated in a ballet and a tap dance class. Vasavada said has enjoyed spending time with all of her new American friends and learning many new styles of dancing.

According to Vasavada, school in India is fairly similar to school in the United States with a few differences. School in India is much stricter than school in the United States; the main focus of school there is their studies. There are no extra-curricular activities inside of her school. All sports or clubs are independent, meaning all activities take place outside of school.

Unlike some schools in the United States, students at Vasavada’s school stay in one classroom throughout the day instead of the students changing classes. The teachers rotate classrooms to teach the class a different subject.

“We don’t have lockers like students do here, and we have fewer electives,” she said.

Although school in India is relatively similar to school in the United States, she said life in the two countries is not as comparable. India is divided into many states, similar to the United States, but not all of the states speak the same language.

India has a different government system than the United States; the government there is a parliamentary system which means that India has a president. The general public is not allowed to vote in the presidential election; that is left to parliament.

Dating is one of the cultural differences in India. Vasavada said dating is not allowed in India, but their elaborate marriage process makes up for it.

“My most memorable moment in The United States was in November when my exchange program took me to the state house in Columbus. I got to meet Sen. Sherrod Brown,” said Vasavada, as she reflected over her time in the United States. She has kept a journal throughout her stay to help her remember everything.

At the end of June, Vasavada will be leaving the United States and returning to her home in Rajkot. She said she has been having mixed feelings about leaving her new home.

“I am getting better at my English, and I am getting used to all of the American customs,” she said.

Vasavada has had a very positive impact on students and staff members of Conneaut High School. “She is always smiling and always happy; it has been a pleasure to be around her,” said Dawn Zappitelli, principal of Conneaut High School.

Students and staff members were very glad to welcome Ghata Vasavada to Conneaut High School and hope that she is enjoying her stay while she is here. We will miss her when she returns to India.