Sormus ‘Smiles’ in America

By Anna Feild, Arts & Entertainment/Features Editor

Senior exchange student Raili Sormus is making her Estonian heritage known throughout the school.

Photo courtesy of TUBS via Wikimedia Commons
Sormus’ home country of Estonia is located in northeastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea. Photo courtesy of TUBS via Wikimedia Commons.

Sormus arrived before the start of the school year, and she really enjoys attending Susquehannock.

“I like Susky; it’s so cool. I have visited other schools in here, like in Maryland, where my host mom works… I didn’t like those schools,” said Sormus. “I like this because it’s so cozy, I don’t know… their ceilings were really high and everything was white, it was like a hospital…! But in here, there’s paintings, and yeah, I like it here more than the other schools.”

She also seems to appreciate the little quirks that Americans have that are not normal in Estonia.

“I like that you can smile at everyone, and no one thinks you’re weird,” said Sormus. “In Estonia, if you smile at someone, it’s weird. Like if you don’t know this person and they’re smiling on the street, people are like ‘do I know you? Are you okay? Like, why?’ and then I come here for class, and I’m smiling at everyone because maybe I know this person, I don’t know!”

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Sormus laughs as she tells her friends a story in her Drawing I class. Photo by Anna Feild.

Senior Kate Cramer sits next to Sormus in English and has discussed what else she finds odd about Americans.

“Sometimes we say jokes that she laughs at a lot because I guess they don’t say that type of thing in Estonia,” said Cramer. “One time we were talking about how stressed we were and someone was saying how they started crying at one point, and she said that Americans are too emotional, because in Estonia, they don’t really show their emotions.”

Sormus was most stressed about speaking English, but the car ride home from the airport with her host family eased her concerns.

“I was so worried about my English, but when I first sat in my host family’s car in the airport, I was just talking, like a half an hour, just talking,” said Sormus. “My host parents were like ‘Raili, you can sleep.’ It was the middle of the night, but I was like ‘oh no, I want to talk!’”

Senior Alex Dennis’ family is hosting Sormus, and he tries to help make sure she is adjusting to life in America well and staying successful in school.

“I’m trying to make sure that she’s okay in classes and stuff like that, and she has a good time in the school, and I try to make sure she’s on top of things and doing her best,” said Dennis.

Hosting a foreign exchange student was a logical idea to the Dennis family, as they have friends who live in different countries.

“My stepmother asked me and my father if we would like to have a foreign exchange student because… we have a lot of foreign friends,” said Dennis. “We have friends in Moldova, we have friends in Germany, and my stepmother thought it would be cool to have an exchange student over… then we got involved with ESSA – I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called – and that’s basically how we met Raili.”

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Sormus gazes over the art pieces she is currently working on. Photo by Anna Feild.

Sormus, in addition to being welcomed into the Susquehannock family, is also being introduced to important aspects of American culture – specifically, Vines.

“Yesterday they showed me in my driving class Vines… and they were just watching me like ‘oh, this is her first Vine!’” said Sormus. “It was so funny, oh my gosh!”

Sormus is truly loving her time here in the United States and is already picking up mannerisms that she thinks she will take back to Estonia.

“I think I smile, like when I go back, I just smile. And I think I’ll start doing small talk, and oh my gosh, it’ll be so weird. But I love this, so I don’t care!” said Sormus.