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EHS exchange student: A lot of firsts

Maria GonCalves from Portugal took her sisters' advice and is spending her school year abroad and learning a new culture and way of life. Photo by Sara Tischauser

Ellsworth has accepted 11 high-schoolers into the community as foreign exchange students, who have traveled from all over the world to spend the school year here.

One student, Maria Teresa Duque Regueira GonCalves from Lisbon, Portugal, has found a lot of new experiences during her junior year in Ellsworth.

"I experienced my first Thanksgiving, baked [a] total of 15 pies, my first Black Friday, went to the Mall of America" GonCalves said. "Carved my first pumpkin, had my first snow fight and got to know a lot of wonderful people."

GonCalves is not the first person in her family to study in another country. She said her sister Maria is currently studying in Spain and her other sister Ines studied in Italy. Both her sisters told her to participate in the foreign exchange student program.

"They were the ones that inspired me to go on this adventure," GonCalves said.

Besides her sisters urging her to participate in the exchange program, GonCalves had her own reason for wanting to travel.

"I decided to come so I could have a chance to expand my horizons and get to know different realities," GonCalves said.

GonCalves has had to adjust to Ellsworth as it is a lot different than her hometown of Lisbon. She said Lisbon is a much bigger city with a population of greater than 500,000 people.

"It's really different from Ellsworth because it's a big city, the capital, so it always have a lot of people, movement and animation," GonCalves said.

She also said the weather and lack of public transportation are big differences she has had to adjust to.

Even with all the changes and differences, GonCalves is enjoying her time in Ellsworth.

"I like adventure and to discover new things," GonCalves said.

While traveling abroad was hard and involved some changes, GonCalves said sometimes a person has to be willing to try new things.

"I think the most important thing in life is to not be afraid to take risks," GonCalves said, "and get out of your comfort zone."