Foreign exchange student finds 2nd home at Riverview
By D.j. Vasil
Published: Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Life as a high school foreign exchange student comes with its share of challenges.
Isabella Gudmundsdottier is thousands of miles from home, and she misses her family and friends. But the senior from Reykjavik, Iceland, seems to have found her comfort zone both academically and basketball-wise at Riverview High School.
Gudmundsdottier began the school year at Allderdice but transferred to Riverview. The winter setting has helped her transition; she's grown comfortable in and around Oakmont.
“I was definitely happy with the way people welcomed me,” said Gudmundsdottier, who was living in Saudarkrokur, a town in northern Iceland. “I came from a different school. I went to school in Pittsburgh for the first two months, and those two schools are like two different things. When I came to Riverview, I immediately started to make friends and everyone welcomed me and was willing to help me with anything I needed.”
A 5-foot-9 forward, Gudmundsdottier said basketball has subtle differences in her home country.
In Iceland prep basketball, there is a 25-second shot clock, something that does not exist in the WPIAL. Players also are allowed to go up for a rebound on a foul shot as soon as the ball leaves the shooting player's hands. Here, the ball must first hit the rim.
Gudmundsdottier, who lives with a host family, said basketball was one of the reasons she came to America. She believes she will return a more polished player.
“I'm glad we got her, and I'm glad she ended up here,” Riverview coach Keith Stitt said. “I think it's been a positive experience for her, the kids and the coaching staff. It's been neat to learn about her and her background. She does have a nice skill level. She has a decent handle on the ball and is a good shooter. I think she is just trying to get up to speed with the degree of physicality with high school girls basketball in Western Pennsylvania.”
Schooling in Iceland is also different than in America. In the states, there is preschool through 12th grade. A high school diploma leads to college or a secondary school.
In Iceland, there is first through 10th grade, or compulsory. Then comes the opportunity to attend college preparatory school for the next four years, which could be a long or short stay, depending on productivity. After those four years, a diploma is awarded and college is an option.
Gudmundsdottier will walk for graduation at Riverview but will not receive a diploma. When she returns to Iceland, she will have two years left before she finishes her schooling and will move on to a college or university. She has not ruled out a return to the United States for college.
She has thought about majoring in psychology.
Becoming a foreign exchange student is something Gudmundsdottier has wanted to do since she was 14.
“There was always something that stopped me from going,” she said. “It was going to be so hard to be away from my family. The first of January last year, I decided I was going to go and that was it. My mom and dad were very supportive and wanted me to do this because it was a really good experience. We try to Skype like twice a month, but if I Skype too much I'd get homesick. We message every other day through Facebook or email.”
After leaving Riverview, Gudmundsdottier said she would also like to bring her family back to visit.
She has been to a Harlem Globetrotters' game and hopes to attend an NBA game somewhere on the East Coast.
D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Section 1-AAAA favorite Hempfield girls set sights on WPIAL title
- Greensburg Salem girls to have different look than last year’s team
- Trio of junior captains return to lead Greensburg Central Catholic girls
- Alle-Kiski Valley basketball teams look for place among WPIAL’s best
- Blairsville girls, boys expected to lead pack in Heritage Conference
- New Valley boys basketball coach Faulx seeking right mix
- Serra basketball coach Gibbons wins battle with cancer, returns to sideline
- Class AA boys basketball preview: Greensburg C.C. boys searching for more
- Led by junior forward Wise, Vincentian girls a favorite to defend WPIAL title
- City League basketball preview: Westinghouse teams out to defend titles
- Yough boys look to compete without bulk of last season’s scorers