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Exchange students enjoying stay

Foreign exchange students are (from left) Mehmet Cengiz from Turkey, Caroline Zwetsloot from Germany and Maira German, arriving from Brazil.

Greta Ertle, student writer

Foreign exchange students at Park Rapids High School are very enthusiastic about their stay in America.

Maira German from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, wanted to participate in the exchange program to meet new people and to study and improve her English. She has been studying English for two years.

"English here is difficult to understand. The school, culture, the food, and what people do for fun is different," she said. "A lot of my friends are doing foreign exchange and are in America."

German is staying with the Hjermstead family and she likes living there. Her favorite things in the Park Rapids include the friends she has made, food and drama. Her favorite foods here are s'mores and pancakes.

While in America, she would like to visit the big cities and go to a concert. She enjoys the plains and the changing colors of the leaves in Park Rapids.

"I used to see the U.S. as a negative place. Bush and the war made it seem like a bad place," she explained. "But now I see that the people are very kind."

Mehmet Cengiz, from Antalya, Turkey, is staying with the Haugland family during his foreign exchange adventure.

"My family is very nice. They treat me like a member of the family, a real son. I love them and they love me," he said.

Cengiz came to America to expand his English vocabulary and for the adventure. He finds Turkey to be quite similar to Park Rapids with the exception of the driving age and the school.

"We are required to wear uniforms," he said.

Caroline Zwetsloot, from Gummersbach, Germany, is staying with the Schwartz family.

"I am just like a daughter to them, and I like to have a sister because I've never had one," she said. "I have a lot of fun with my family. We take a lot of trips and I'm very grateful for this."

The motivation to learn better English and to have an interesting experience was the catalyst for her involvement in the foreign exchange program. The most challenging aspect of her experience is learning the language and studying English.

Zwetsloot enjoys the shopping malls in America as well as popcorn balls.

"I'm open for everything and for trying new things," she said. "My experience so far is very cool. The foreign exchange program is a very good tool for young people to gain a cultural awakening."

The foreign exchange program is ultimately rewarding for both the foreign and the American. It is an opportunity to learn about their way of life and to experience diversity.

For more stories written by the Park Rapids Area High School students, visit the "Panther Post" collection.