Exchange student excels in America

By Balinda Zimmerman

Oyugi Fonicus (pronounced O-you-gee Fon-e-cuss) came to America from the northern part of Uganda as a foreign exchange student via connections through his teacher.  Fifteen years ago, the Ankley family from Imley City, Michigan sponsored a young man named Daniel to come to America to attend seminary. The Ankley family is the family of Michelle Murch who is the house mother for Fonicus as he attends Milan High School.  Father Daniel is now a teacher at the Catholic school where Fonicus and his siblings attended school and he was instrumental in Fonicus being able to come to America for his studies. 
Fonicus is quite a friendly young man of respectful nature with a flashing grin that is captivating. He says he loves people and American pizza and he is excited that he has learned to make pizza while staying with the Murch family.  He speaks English with a hint of an accent although the official language of his country is Kiswahilli, what we in America refer to as Swahilli. Fonicus explained that it is a long and arduous journey to gain approval to come to America but he and the Murch family all agree it has been worth it for him to be able to come and study here. 
It took an estimated 9 months for the paperwork to be approved gaining Fonicus the J-1 Visa required to travel to the USA for educational purposes. In order to reach the airport, Fonicus had to pay a large fee to ride a bus for six hours to reach the American Embassy.  It was an additional three hours from there to the airport and then an estimated twenty-four hours of flight time from Uganda to Ethiopia and on to Germany before arriving in America. The total cost for Fonicus to come to America to study was over two thousand American dollars which was raised before he came to Milan.
Fonicus explained that he is enjoying the privilege to study in America where technology is far more accessible. He admitted that he does question some of the American students and how they talk back, are often rude and interrupt teachers with no respect for the teacher, the school or parents.  In his country students are very quiet and respectful in school.  If students are disrespectful they are either caned (yes, beaten with a cane) or sent home from school. To be sent home from school means they are forced to leave the school and their temporary home because they attend a boarding school for three months at a time and it is far away from home. If sent home the family does not recoup the estimated $80.00 that is paid for the three months of education (per child) and they may or may not be allowed to return.
The schools are co-ed but the dorms are separate from each other.  There are only two types of school in the northern regions of Uganda and they are both religious in nature, Muslim and Catholic. There are others schools in other regions that are non-religious but Fonicus attends a catholic school in his local region. When arriving at school students must present religious papers showing they are from a certain faith. Imagine the reactions of an American student arriving at school and being forced to declare a religious affiliation before being allowed to attend school.  
 The cost of attending school is quite high considering there is little work in the region and his father works very hard to provide limited education to his eight children.  Fonicus has five brothers and two sisters ranging in age from four to Fonicus at age seventeen. His family is not very technologically advanced but his father does own a cell phone and a laptop computer. Although he has access to these items when his father is home, he is often working and the kids are in school. Fonicus admits it takes a while to travel to the café where he can be granted a limit of about thirty minutes of electricity for his computer time so he has learned to use his technology sparingly. . The family has no printer in the home and no paper for a printer so they must travel and pay for any printing. He has had a printer recently donated to him to take home and share with his family. It is an HP printer, copier, scanner and if anyone would like to provide cartridges for an HP Photosmart C4640 the cartridges needed are HP 60 black and 60 Tri-color. 
His family has lived for many years in a very small house and the kitchen is in a separate building from the rest of the home.  Luckily it is a tropical climate with little rain and the separation is not a great distress for the family.  Fonicus explained that his father has been working hard at building a new home for the family for about the past ten years and it is coming along nicely.  They will all be so proud to have a kitchen that is attached to the home when it is all completed.
While attending high school in Milan Fonicus is studying Geometry, Biology, Physics, English, Zoology and enjoys one fun class of gym.  He was also a member of the varsity soccer team for Milan, playing the position of mid-field and sometimes striking. He would also like to participate in the wrestling team this coming season before he will leave for home on February 1, 2017. Unlike many students in America who take education for granted and try to take the easy elective classes, Fonicus has had a rare opportunity given to him and he is making the most of the additional education while in America.  He has experienced more travel and world experience than most anyone he knows and he is quite appreciative of the opportunity. 
Upon completion of his high school education Fonicus plans to either become a famer or continue on to college and become a doctor.  He is not sure if the opportunity will be afforded to him to attend college but he will take the chance if it does happen his way and make the most of it. Fonicus laughs, a lot, and his laugh is as infectious as his grin.  It is my opinion that he would make a great and joyous doctor and if the opportunity presents itself he may continue the tradition of sponsoring a young boy or girl from Uganda to study abroad in America some day in the future.
The community of Milan, the family where he presently lives, the students he has come to know and the Milan Eagle wish all the best to Fonicus as he continues to study the next few months in America and celebrates his first Christmas without his family. 

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