Foreign exchange students bring flavor of world to Manistee High School hallways

MANISTEE — No one could blame anyone for mistaking the hallways of Manistee High School for a branch office of the United Nations.

That is because Manistee High School is hosting 18 foreign exchange students from nine countries this year. It is the most foreign exchange students ever in one year at the school, and principal Andy Huber said school officials couldn’t be happier with their visitors from around the world.

Shown are the 17 foreign exchange students attending Manistee High School this year under programs of CETUSA (Council For Educational Travel USA) and one is being sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary Club. It is the largest group of students ever attending MAPS and they come from nine different countries.

The school district has been working with CETUSA (Council for Educational Travel USA) and the Sunrise Rotary Club on the program. Huber said it has been a real positive situation for everyone.

“In the past, we never had this many students, but this year, we talked about opening our doors a little bit more,” said Huber. “We had concerns in the past with too many students from one country because they often congregate with each other and don’t circulate, but with CETUSA on board, it has been a real win-win. The students we get are here for the right reasons and they have made a lot of great friends, so it has been a great experience for everyone.”

CETUSA community director Cathy Hanus said the experience has been just as positive from her end.

“The school has been really supportive of all the cultures coming in,” said Hanus. “The athletics have welcomed them onto their teams and really embrace them. So, they are a part of the school spirit and everything that goes on here.”

Students come from virtually all points of the world including Thailand, Denmark, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Switzerland, Romania and Paraguay. Hanus said they hold regular meetings for the students and group events to make sure their stay in Manistee is a good one.

“They are really one big family and it is fun to watch how quickly they have integrated with the American students and what a strong bond they have with each other as the international group,” she said. “They are actually quite popular and it has been fun for them and the American kids.”

Huber said the transition has a been a seamless one at MAPS, and the foreign exchange students are not any different than the rest of the student body. Part of it he attributed to the fact that the world is becoming a smaller place.

“I don’t know if it is becoming more of a global world or they are becoming more Americanized, but culturally I don’t think teenagers are any different anywhere in the world,” said Huber. “They certainly have different background experiences, but they relate very well to our students and all the experiences have been really positive.”

The students attending Manistee High School from other countries are Boon Aksornukul (Thailand), Juni Dingstad (Denmark), Prang Nguadchai (Thailand), Min Koo Heo (South Korea), Lena-Maria Eis (Germany), Andre Wadmann (Denmark), Jaime Izquierdo (Spain), Patrick Pyo (South Korea), Marie Grosemans (Germany), Marie Kalinova (Czech Republic), Stefan Kascelan (Montenegro), Kristyna Vlahova (Czech Republic), Marius Zweifel (Switzerland), Petra Probst (Romania), Achi Torres Lezcano (Paraguay), Dong Woo Lee (South Korea), Amanda Nielsen (Denmark) and Julia Scherlin (Sweden).

Eis said one of the things she loves about Manistee High School is the sports.

“I like the school sports and the spirit,” said Eis. “I play soccer and basketball and we don’t have many things like that at home, so it was really cool.”

Wadmann felt that the entire experience has been a good one for him.

“I like it a lot and had a great time,” said Wadmann. “There have been some ups and downs, but it has been an experience for life.”

Kascelan agreed that the experience has been a good one, and he has enjoyed the time spent with his host family and fellow students at MAPS.

“The students help you a lot and especially the teachers,” said Kascelan. “ So, that is a lot of fun and I like it.”

All of the students agreed that technology has made it easier to keep in touch with family and friends back home, but sometimes that can be a double edged sword as Scherlin pointed out. She said looking at pictures on Facebook of her friends back home celebrating a holiday can be tough.

“Facebook has made it hard, but it is worth it being here,” said Scherlin.

Wadmann said he feels the same way when he Skypes his parents over the Internet.

“You can stay so close to family and friends, but it can be tough,” said Wadmann. “You see them on the screen, but you are not together.”

Although they have occasional pangs of homesickness, all of the students agree they wouldn’t change the experience of coming to Manistee for anything. They also point to the special bonds and relationships that have formed since they have been in Manistee.

“It has been a good experience, and it’s nice to have second family in another country and get so close to them,” said Eis.

Scherlin agreed, saying when the time comes to say good-bye, it is not going to be easy to do it to the students, host families or teachers.

“It is going to be tough to leave here and go back to our own country,” said Scherlin. “When you leave your country to come here, you know that you are going to come back home, but when we leave here you might come back next summer or not again, you never know.”

Hanus said that the feedback she receives from the students has all been positive.

“The foreign exchange students at MAPS have been really happy and given back good reports on the community and the people here,” said Hanus. “We look to bring in a lot more students in the future.”

Hanus said she is already taking applications for host families for next fall right now. She said anyone interested in hosting a student should call her at (231) 233-3268 or e-mail her at garmentworks@hotmail.com for more details.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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