Foreign exchange students experience life in America

Miriam Gaentgen, Hemsuda Hemapusit, Maddalena Pilan, and Ophelie Bakker smiling in the library April 5th.

Evan Kauffman, Reporter

This year, four foreign exchange students came to South, bringing a whole new experience into their lives.

Jeep Hemapusit, senior from Phitsanulok, Thailand, explained that “everything is very different.”

The culture in America has aspects that accommodate lots of different nationalities; however, the differences in transportation, education, and overall family life can be quite dramatic to someone who may be unfamiliar With American culture.

“At my school [we have] six hours and stay in the same classroom all day,” Hemapusit said.

Big adjustments have been made in varying intensities by the different exchange students whether it be to adjust to the language barrier, not being as independent, or even just being away from family and friends, becoming homesick.

For Ophelie Bakker, senior from the Netherlands, “not being able to talk to [her family]” has been a huge struggle for her.

Miriam Gaentgen, senior from Germany, explained the challenges for her stay in Kansas.

“Not being as independent has been hard,” Gaentgen said. “Normally I am used to taking public transportation; now I have to take rides with my host family.”

One of the biggest struggles for the exchange students was the language at first; however, all of them believe that their English has improved dramatically.

“The language was the hardest part [of the transition],” Hemapusit said. “My English is much better than before.”

However, some students had English come naturally to them.

“I never really had problems with speaking; people always seemed to understand,” said Maddalena Pilan, senior from Italy.

Another surprising, but also typical, adjustment was adapting to living with a new family.

Students traveling abroad stay with their host families for months at a time, effectively inserting themselves into a new household for one school year or even longer.

“Here I have a sister my age,” Gaentgen said. “At home I have a 15-year-old brother and two sisters that are 6 and 12.”

Throughout the different struggles they face while living here, these students claimed to have still had one of the best times of their lives experiencing the diverse culture and life found in American families.

“I really liked my first volleyball game and my first swim meet because it was new, and I won the Falcon Strength competition,” Bakker said.

Additionally, some of the host families took the exchange students on exciting trips around the countryin order to show what America can offer in terms of entertainment and varying cultures.

“I went to California and visited Disneyland for three days,” Hemapusit said.

Others managed to find enjoyment in simply conversing with new people, meeting more friendly faces and making lifelong memories with friends from across the globe.

“Meeting new people and finding new friends” was one of Pilan’s favorite parts of the foreign exchange experience.

Regardless, each exchange student learned a lot about American culture and lifestyle.

Living in a new country, even just for a short period of time, has given life-changing experiences to these students, who say they will look back fondly on their time in America.