DIXFIELD — One of the biggest differences in education between the U.S. and schools in Brazil and South Korea is that students have a lot more free time to participate in sports and other interests, according to exchange students at Dirigo High School.

Isabella DeOliveira of Brazil and Hyunwoo Baek, nicknamed ‘Alex’, of South Korea, both 15, say schooling was more difficult in their homelands.

“Here, school is not all about study. Like in Brazil I feel like all I did was study,” DeOliveira said. At one point in her teens, she played handball for a year, but then she realized it took too much time from her studies so she decided to drop the sport.

Hyunwoo Baek, 15, nicknamed ‘Alex,’ left, of South Korea and Isabella DeOliveira, 15, of Brazil, are exchange students at Dirigo High School in Dixfield this year. Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson

“I feel like school (here) is more enjoyable,” she said. At her homeland high school, she had six class periods per day for 50 minutes each, whereas at Dirigo she has four longer class periods “and they give you time to work on your homework during class,” she said.

Baek also said that his high school in South Korea demands much more study time from him. “It’s really hard; we have to study a lot. Here, it is really free,” Baek said. But he’s not bored by having more free time, he said, because he’s enjoying being a member of the track team on which he runs the 100- and 200-meter races and does the 400-meter long jump.

DeOliveira is also enjoying having more free time to participate in sports. Since she’s been a student at Dirigo, she’s participated on the ski team, the soccer team and is now on the tennis team.

Both students are staying with Canton host family Charles and Kate Tuell and their six children. Living with the Tuell family is a big change for the foreign students. At home, DeOliveira is an only child and Baek lives with his parents and one older brother.

Although they had to adjust to their living situation within a large family, they are both enjoying staying with the Tuell family and see it as part of their exchange year experience.

As for American food, both said they like burgers and pizza but prefer food from their homelands. DeOliveira said her favorite food at home is the steaks they have during their weekly barbecues and Baek enjoys rice with side dishes such as kimchi, eggs and vegetables.

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