The small junior class at New England Public School has grown this year with the addition of nine new students that started classes this fall.
By RACHEL BOCK
The small junior class at New England Public School has grown this year with the addition of nine new students that started classes this fall. However, the new students didn’t transfer to the New England School from another town or another state, they are here from another country as part of a student exchange program. In the past two months, the nine exchange students have not only given the students at New England School a new cultural experience, but together the students are forming friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
New England resident, Amanda Seymour has been hosting exchange students for the past seven years. Seymour who was living in Colorado at the time, originally got started with the ASSE International Student Exchange Program after seeing an ad in a newspaper about hosting an exchange student. Soon after hosting her first student she fell in love with the program and became an area representative. Three years ago Seymour and her family moved to New England, and since moving to New England the Seymour family has hosted an exchange student every year. The past two years there has only been two exchange students a year in the New England School System, but this year that number has increased to nine, something that is remarkable to see in the school system and for the community of New England.
Seymour who is the ASSE Area Coordinator for North and South Dakota, feels that hosting an exchange student is an incredible experience, something that everyone should consider since there are a lot of students who do not get placed during the school year due to a shortage of host families.
“Hosting a student is an absolutely amazing way to get to know another culture. You learn just as much about them [the students] as they do about the American culture. I think it is really great especially if you have kids in the house, as it kind of opens their eyes and their minds to realize as great as America is there are other countries out there,” Seymour said.
For 16 year old Thachita Harfst, coming to America has been a dream of hers since she was a little girl. She has always wanted to experience the American culture and to be able to have the opportunity to go to high school in America. The day she found out that she was accepted into the exchange program, she hurried over to her mom’s work to tell her the exciting news. Even though she knew saying goodbye to her loved ones in Germany for 10 months was going to be hard, the adventure that she was about to embark on was worth it. In May when Harfst found out that Jess and Del Eisenbarth was going to be her host family, Harfst began preparing herself for her journey to America by staying in contact with her host family. By staying in contact over the summer, Harfst already felt that she knew her host family before she even arrived to New England.
“My [host] family was so nice to me, I felt welcomed from the first second. I also like the people here, everyone is nice to me and everybody offers you help. It is cool that everybody knows everybody. Even though you don’t have many opportunities here you always have fun, and you are never bored,” Harfst said.
Even though Harfst has only been in North Dakota for two months she feels right at home with not only her host family but also school. During the Homecoming festivities Harfst was nominated as the Princess in the Homecoming Royalty Court, an honor that is voted on by the student body. Harfst who initially had a hard time saying goodbye to her family back in Germany when she first came to America, she is already dreading the day that she has to say goodbye to her host family and her friends that she has made in New England.
“Sometimes I think about the moment on the day I will be at the airport and I will just cry because I like my family here very much and I get along with them so well,” Harfst said.
This summer Amanda Seymour along with two other area representatives Jess Eisenbarth, and Niki Olsen placed a total of 16 exchange students around Southwest North Dakota to attend school this fall in area schools.
“You just fall in love with it, it is so much fun, and it is great to get to know these kids. They teach you their cuisine, and their language. You build a quick relationship with them and you are the only person that they somewhat know in the United States. They rely on you a lot as far as teaching them about the culture. You build a bond and relationship quicker than you would if you just move to a new town. They just become part of your family,” Seymour said.
If anyone is interested about learning more about the ASSE Program, or about hosting an exchange student they are encouraged to get in touch with Amanda Seymour the Area Coordinator at 970-361-4524 or by email email@example.com. People can also get in touch with Area Representatives Jessica Eisenbarth at 701-290-2956, or Niki Olsen at 406-370-8858.