Two foreign exchange students play Taft High football

Just the idea of traveling to a different country and culture can make someone nervous and uneasy with its share of challenges and unknowns.

Yet there is a sense of comfort and familiarity for Taft High football players and foreign exchange students Benjermin Vikene and Pablo Del Cubo Arroyo after they just wrapped up their season playing for the Wildcats.

“I like the sport,” Vikene said of playing football. “I fell in love with the people here. It’s family.”

“I like it here because people are kind,” Arroyo said of his experience.

“Both Benjermin and Pablo’s role on the team has been good,” said Taft head coach George Falgout. “For Benjermin, I think it’s been a good experience for him.”

Vikene and Arroyo come from different countries with Arroyo arriving from Chur Switzerland, a town in the eastern part of the country and is the oldest town in Switzerland according to my Switzerland.com

Meanwhile, Vikene comes from the very far Northern part of Norway. Vikene said its like Alaska where you have the midnight sun.

“It’s quite nice,” he said.

On the Wildcat team this past season, Vikene was a kicker but this is not the first time Vikene has kicked a ball.

In Norway, Vikene played soccer for 11 years. Yet, he didn’t have a team for the past four years. When it comes to comparing the two, Vikene says there is a difference between kicking a soccer ball and a football.

“It’s a very different technique,” he said. “You still need to kick under.”

Vikene had a chance to kick in a game when he kicked an extra point during the game against Robert F. Kennedy on October 28.

Following the football season, Vikene will be playing soccer for the Wildcats soccer team.

In the case of Arroyo, who is an outside linebacker on the team, this is not the first time he has played football. He played one year of football in Switzerland.

Arroyo, though, says there is a difference between playing here and in Switzerland. One difference is that football is not really popular in Switzerland. He thinks that it is considered dangerous.  

“It’s much more show here,” said Arroyo. “I like that. “The team is more stronger and faster.”

Football was not the only sport Arroyo played back in Switzerland. He did a lot of sports including swimming for 10 years, gym and boxing for two years.

Even though the football season is over, Arroyo is not done playing sports at Taft High. He is thinking about playing baseball this spring.
Both athletes say that playing sports is different here than it is back in their home country, especially when it comes to football.

“The atmosphere is electrical,” said Vikene. “I was just so happy. I didn’t know what was going through my mind. In Norway you don’t get the high school experience.”

“You have to search and sign up for club,” Arroyo said of sports in Switzerland. “In Switzerland, you don’t have that (sports) in school.”

“It’s much more bigger here,” Arroyo said of sports in the United States.

Arroyo said that coach (Russell) Emberson puts him in when there is a chance, usually at the end of the game.

“I don’t have the reaction for the speed of the team,” said Arroyo.

Arroyo and Vikene took different paths to coming to Taft.

Vikene decided to be a foreign exchange student after going to Spain last year and meeting a girl who was from here (who later moved to Tehachapi). He decided to be a foreign exchange student.

“Why not be a foreign exchange student?,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime.”

Meanwhile, Arroyo’s brother was a foreign exchange student and went to Oregon. At first, Arroyo didn’t think about being a foreign exchange student but after his brother came back and told him what the experience was like, Arroyo changed his mind.

It took Vikene about to the third game before he started to understand the sport.

Another adjustment Vikene had to make coming from Norway was speaking English on a regular basis. There are times though where people will come up and ask him to speak in Norwegian.

“You get better at it,” he said. “I am learning still.”

Besides the language and understanding the sport of football Vikene had mixed feelings about school here.

“I feel like the school is easier here,” he said. “The first week it was so difficult to go from class to class.”

There are a couple of things Arroyo is adjusting to being in Taft and those are the weather and the food.

According to Arroyo, people in Switzerland do not go out to eat as often, only about five times a year. They also don’t use the microwave as much. Instead, they prefer everything fresh.

People also use price of product.

In terms of the weather, Arroyo went from a place that was in the low 70’s to upper 80’s in Chur according to weathe.com in August to Taft where the temperature was in the 90’s to 100’s.

“I adjusted right now and I am getting colder,” he said of the weather. “It was just annoying at first.”

Aside from playing football, the two players got a chance to some traveling while they have been here. During their time, Arroyo and Vikene traveled to places like the Francisco while Arroyo has also traveled to Santa Monica and Vikene has also traveled to San Luis Mountains, Universal Studios and Magic Mountain.

“The experiences have been so much fun,” said Vikene.

Along with playing on the same football team, Vikene and Arroyo will both leave in June and they share something else in common.

“We actually share the same house and the same family,” said Vikene.