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Australians get welcome lunch

Their Estancia High School hosts treated them to Souplantation. They start school today.

January 19, 2010|By Julie Hagy

While cold rain pelted the windowpanes, inside the Souplantation in Costa Mesa warm smiles and laughter filled the room. The restaurant’s staff was busily refilling the soup vats Monday as a group of American and Australian teenagers, who were dining together, returned to dip ladle after ladle into their bowls.

“This place is amazing,” said senior Sarah Mangan, 16, surveying the room around her.

She is one of seven students from Wyndham, Australia, taking part in the Australian Education Exchange Program with Costa Mesa’s Estancia High School.

Costa Mesa and Wyndham have been sister cities since August 1996. The goal of the Sister City Agreement was to encourage deeper understanding between the two nations with an emphasis on commerce, education and culture.

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Costa Mesa resident Sue Smith decided to take the education component upon herself.

“As former Estancia [Parent Teacher Assn.] president, I wanted to give our students the opportunity to expand their cultural awareness,” said Smith, founder and director of the Australian Education Exchange Program.

The Australian delegation from Hoppers Crossing Secondary College landed Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport, becoming the fifth delegation of Australian exchange students to visit Estancia.

The Australian students will spend the next three weeks observing and participating in the day-to-day lives of their student hosts. For the past few days, they have been having fun chatting and getting acquainted with their American peers over meals and at an Anaheim Ducks game.

On Monday, while Estancia was off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the American students hosted their Australian counterparts to a welcome to Costa Mesa lunch at the local Souplantation.

On Tuesday, the Australians will enter the classroom. They are eager to learn about the American high school experience.

“I want to learn differences between how we learn. I think they learn through sit-down lecture and reading, whereas we go on lots of excursions,” said Hoppers Crossing junior Amy Penaluna, 16. She thinks she may find the American educational system more formal.

Yet, she also points out that her host, Estancia junior Vanessa Corona, 16, plans on wearing jeans to class tomorrow, while she will be wearing her school uniform, which includes a skirt, tights and blazer.

Amy has been preparing for her cross-Pacific journey for quite some time. “I’ve been learning Spanish,” she says.

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