Everyone dreams of traveling the world. For one of Central High School’s exchange students, that dream is now a reality. Meet Flori, our fellow foreign Cobbler.
On August 13th, 2015, Florentina (Flori) Boulgaropoulos took her first steps on American soil. She had left her hometown of Graz, Austria two days prior and driven two hours to the Austrian capital of Vienna. Flori boarded her plane for Chicago, Illinois the following day. Her first night in the United States was spent in a hotel room by herself. “I was so scared!” she remembered. “I wasn’t assigned a roommate but all I wanted was to not be alone.” The next day, however, she was back in the air and on her way to Rapid City, South Dakota.
“I was supposed to live in Minnesota but that fell through.” Fortunately for all of us, everything has worked out spectacularly. Her host family, which consists of her host parents, host sister, and host brother, have done everything in their power to make her feel like part of the family: bringing her along on mini vacations to Denver, taking her to plays, and more. “My host sister is even like a real sister to me,” Flori bragged.
And for Flori, siblings are a big change. “I have my dad, my mom, and my dog.” Even without siblings, however, Flori did not grow up alone. Despite being an only child, she has always been surrounded by cousins and supported by a large family. It was Flori’s family, specifically her mother, who encouraged her to study abroad in America.
Besides her mom, many factors contributed to her decision to study abroad. When first asked why she chose to travel here, her response was both humorous and simple: “Uh… My boyfriend broke up with me.” After a lot of laughter, I learned that while most students study abroad their sophomore year in high school, Flori hadn’t been interested at the time because of her relationship. But when that ended, she was ready for a change. “Always, my whole life, I wanted to go to a real American High School,” she said. “It was just that country for me and I was ready.”
Flori started learning English when she was ten years old and spoke English almost every day.
Not only was she emotionally ready, she was mentally ready as well. Contrary to my assumptions, English was not much of a struggle for her. Flori started learning English when she was ten years old, and spoke English almost every day because her friends from Greece also spoke English. Since her arrival in the U.S., she no longer has to translate between German and English in her head. “I think in both. Isn’t that weird?” German and English aren’t the only languages she has under her belt, though; she also took Latin and Italian back home in Austria. Schools back home, she claims, are much harder than our American schools. In Austria, the students don’t choose their own classes and teachers move to the students, not vice-versa.
Not accustomed to moving from class to class, Flori got lost a few times moving around Central. “It’s just so crowded!” she recalled. But as the year went on, Flori found her rhythm within the school. “To make friends, I just asked people if they liked sushi.” Her search for sushi loving friends lead her to Samantha Reuppel, Flori’s current best friend. “She promised that she would text me that weekend to take me to Fuji,” Flori explained. “I was so scared that she wouldn’t text me. But thankfully she did, because when we went to lunch I felt like I had known her my whole life.”
Not only has their friendship given Flori a sushi pal, it has also given her the opportunity to travel to new places. The pair went on vacation to New York City in December of 2015, where they saw the Statue of Liberty, attended Mariah Carey’s Christmas concert, and went to the Empire State building; and of course, did a lot of shopping.
Photo credit: #1 by Tom Hall on Flickr