TIFTON -- In just a couple of weeks, Anna xxxxx has learned to love several things about Tifton that many of its longtime residents take for granted. The 16-year-old loves the gentle pace, the friendly people and the cooler weather.

Cooler weather?

Compared to Anna's hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the rising temperatures of the South Georgia summer are no match. As part of the foreign exchange student program, Anna has stayed busy with her new school, new friends and new family.

"My English is getting better," Anna said in her halting, but steadily improving, English. "English is very important in Brazil. It gives you more opportunities."

Anna is one of four foreign exchange students spending time in Tifton this school year. The program places eligible students with host families where they learn about another culture. Anna's host family is Dr. Geoff and Donna Scott of Tifton.

"We knew people who had done this before, but we hadn't," said Donna Scott. "Connie (Foremes) is the area director for the program and our kids play soccer with their kids. She asked if we wanted to do it and we thought we were ready."

Scott said one of the first things she did was discuss the proposal with her 12-year-old daughter Kristen, who would have to share a room with a student from a foreign country. "She thought it was a neat idea," Scott said.

Anna said the other big difference between Tifton and Sao Paolo is the population -- Tifton's 17,000 to Sao Paulo's 7,000,000.

"Things here are very calm," she said. "I prefer the small town. In Brazil, it's crazy. There are so many cars and lots of noise. I think Tifton is better."

Anna said her school course load is also different with four classes per semester here compared to 13 subjects she studied in Brazil. And in her native country, classes such as chorus or music are not taught.

"They only have physics and other academic classes like that," she said.

Scott said that although Anna has been in town for only a few weeks, she has already seen a change in her demeanor.

"The first couple of weeks, it was a lot to take on, being away from family," Scott said. "She was a little shy at first but now that she's getting settled and understanding our humor, she's opening up."

Scott said the idea of the program is for the family to treat the student as it would any other child, with everything from house rules to chores a part of the package.

Anna said she met many people and made several friends her first day at school and continues to find things she likes to be involved with. She enjoys the electric guitar and played soccer in Brazil, something she hopes to do here also. It has been tougher, however, to find a second for handball, a popular sport in Brazil but rare in the U.S.

"It is really like family here," Anna said. "I like that very much."

To contact managing editor Chris Beckham, call 382-4321.

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