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Exchange Student Finds Home in Theater

By Megan Henry

Imagine traveling to a foreign county without a friend of family member for thousands of miles, having to speak a foreign language, struggling to fit into a new culture, and still finding time to be active in your adopted school’s theater arts program. This is exactly what foreign exchange student Naiana Murad has accomplished this year at Westfield High School.

Naiana, who hails from Brazil, has always been interested in the cultures and languages of foreign countries. The idea for participating in an exchange program came from her stepmother’s experience as an exchange student. Naiana eventually chose the United States for the importance of the English language and she wanted to participate in theater and sports. She has always been interested in acting. “I wanted to be many things, but acting was always a part of it,” she said.

Naiana has participated in the theater program at Westfield High School since the beginning of the school year. In the fall, she successfully auditioned for the main stage show "Hamlet," earning an ensemble role. Participating in "Hamlet" has been Naiana’s favorite theater experience so far. It was hard for her to make friends and adjust to the American culture, but performing in "Hamlet" was the perfect way to familiarize herself with her new school and make friends with her fellow actors.

She has been pleasantly surprised with the myriad of theater opportunities in America. In Brazil, there are not nearly as many chances to participate in theater arts as in the United States.

Naiana has had her fair share of challenges and theater has really helped to overcome them while she has been here. The classes and activities have helped her conquer initial bouts with homesickness and provided her with a great group of American friends. “When I am the weakest, theater makes me stronger,” she said.