Crossing Borders

Inge Petrie and Bojana Kuzmanoska traveled from their home countries to America and are welcomed into the Francis Howell Central High School community.


Inge Petrie

Bojana Kuzmanoska poses in front of Francis Howell Central where she is currently attending high school. The smile on her face displays how happy she is to be in America.

On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 27, Macedonia slept, but not junior Bojana Kuzmanoska. She could never, for that day was the day she went to America. She packed her bags and made her way to the airport. Her hand clenched onto her suitcase as she anxiously counted down the seconds until her section was called and she could finally board the plane. She said a sad farewell to her family and set foot onto the plane excitedly, ready to face the next year of her life in the country she had only been told of. Teacher Jessica Rowe impatiently awaited the arrival of Kuzmanoska as she would soon become a member of their family for the next year.

Senior Inge Petrie was experiencing a similar rush while boarding a plane in the Netherlands, for she too was on her way to the next chapter of her life in the United States. As Petrie unboarded her plane in America, she was greeted by her host family with a huge sign reading “welcome” and colorful balloons that crowded her sight. She knew immediately this experience would be one to remember.

These two students are now currently enrolled at Francis Howell Central, where they will remain for the rest of this school year. How, one might ask, were these two minors able to travel to America with no family accompanying them? This opportunity was awarded to them through the foreign exchange program known as the YES program, or Youth Exchange and Study. Students volunteer to participate in this organization and are able to travel to the United States, staying with a welcoming family that has also volunteered to house them for the school year. Mrs. Rowe, a biomedical science teacher and the host parent for Kuzmanoska, spoke about the program and how it attempts to blend cultures and countries together.

“The reason this program was set up was to build an understanding of the cultures to hopefully reduce conflicts in [the] future. If [the students] develop a good understanding of American culture by being in high school, hopefully, they will be able to improve relationships between countries,” Rowe stated. 

 However, only select students are chosen to participate. They must meet certain requirements and display extraordinary character. Rowe expands on how particular students are selected.

“The US State Department interviews students who are high achieving. They take tests such as English proficiency and leadership abilities. They also have to have letters of recommendation from their teachers and go through an interview [process],” Rowe explained.

Petrie, however, was not motivated by the educational value America would offer her, but the experience and memories it would bring. In her home country, America was the dream. She expands on how much America influences her home country.

“For us, America is a big country and everything is from America. All the movies we watched were always about American high school. So I have always wanted to experience that kind of life,” Petrie said.

 She was incredibly excited to live the life she had heard about from so many people. Petrie speaks about her experience so far in Missouri and at FHC.

Bojana Kuzmanoska
Inge petrie, from the Netherlands, smiles widely as she takes in the new Missouri culture. One of her favorite things about this experience has been meeting all of the people at Francis Howell Central.

“My [favorite part] is meeting so many new people and making so many new friends. The [10 months] is going by so fast!” Petrie exclaimed.

Despite the incredible memories Petrie is making with her newfound friends, there are aspects of her home life that she aches to return to. 

“[I miss] my family so much. They can come visit me for one week but they probably will not do that because it is not recommended for the homesickness. But I get to FaceTime them once a week so that helps,” Petrie explained. 

Kuzmanoska, originally from North Macedonia, was also thrilled to experience what this American high school she had heard so much about was actually like.

“I have always wanted to experience American high school life and how teenagers here spend their free time,” Kuzmanoska expanded.

 However, moving from the society she grew up in, to an entirely different one took some getting used to. Kuzmanoska has noticed a few major differences between her home country and america.

“[In Macedonia] we don’t have clubs and after school activities in my school. The grades are 1-5, they’re not letters like here. I’ve always walked from school to home and to the town center, but here everyone drives,” Kuzmanoska said. 

Despite the major differences between her usual lifestyle and the one she currently upholds, her host family has done a fantastic job of making her feel welcome and ensuring a memorable experience.

“They do things to make me feel good and welcome every day. We all cook together and they cook things that I like. I’m involved in everything they do. I go to their kids’ games and their friends’ houses. They try to get to know me and my culture and I really feel like they want to know about me and they make me feel welcomed here. I am so thankful for them. I love them,” Kuzmanoska stated.

Not only is this program extremely beneficial for the students traveling to different countries, but the host families are granted the pleasure of getting to know them as well. Mrs. Rowe speaks about how this experience has affected her children and their view of the world.

“Bojana loves to play games with them and talk to them. They have a lot of questions like ‘Have you ever been bowling?’ ‘Have you ever eaten a pop tart?’ It is so fun to hear them and the questions they come up with. We like seeing our community through her eyes,” Mrs. Rowe explained.