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Student exchange expands

Australians visit Estancia High, with a little time at Costa Mesa High. The question everyone has: Which school is better?

January 26, 2011|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • WAVE IT HIGH: Exchange students from Australia gather at lunch to wave their flag as part of the Sister City Educational Program at Estancia High School. Olivia Burrow, left, and teacher chaperone Rachel Barney, right, are holding the flag.
WAVE IT HIGH: Exchange students from Australia gather… (DON LEACH, Don Leach )

COSTA MESA — A stadium packed with screaming students and parents watching rival high school teams battle it out on the football field is how Hollywood often portrays American high school life.

A group of Australian students staying in Costa Mesa were anticipating that kind of experience Wednesday night — minus the pigskin. They planned to be among the spectators as the Estancia and Costa Mesa high school basketball teams squared off in a hoops version of the Battle of the Bell cross-town varsity sports rivalry.

For some of the Australian students, watching a high school game was a first. Experiencing the sports rivalry between the two Costa Mesa campuses also was new to the Aussies, who said that school competition back home is nonexistent.

"I can't wait to watch the Battle of the Bell," said Ajok Marial, 17. "It's going to really fun."

Seven students from Hoppers Crossing Secondary College and Galvin Park Secondary College, both schools in suburban Wyndham near Melbourne, are visiting Costa Mesa through Feb. 4. They are here to get a taste of the American high school experience as part of the Sister-City Education Exchange program between the cities of Costa Mesa and Wyndham.

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During the nearly three-week trip, the student ambassadors, as they are called, will learn about the community, its educational system and culture.

Only a little more than a week into the trip, the young Australians have observed many differences between the two cultures — like how seriously American students approach the teenage rite of asking a date to the dance, said Aussie Emma Busst, 16.

It is also easy to find the similarities, she said.

"It's pretty universal how us teenagers tend to communicate," she said, adding, that the two sets of students are still interested in learning each other's slang.

Longtime Costa Mesa resident Sue Smith started the exchange program in 1997 to bring together educators from Estancia and schools in Wyndham. The program expanded in 2005 to include groups of students from both cultures visiting one another every year.

"When we got students involved it took on a life of its own," Smith said. "And it hasn't stopped."

The Australian students arrived Jan. 17 and have been staying with two sets of host families from Estancia.

Since its inception, the U.S. end of the program has been run out of Estancia, but, for the first time this year, Australian students spent a day at rival Costa Mesa High — an experience they were warned about.

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