Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Two foreign exchange students have graced the halls of Kimball Area High School this year: Natnicha "Junior" Nampim from Thailand and Anne-Marie Hirtzel from northeastern Germany.
As they will both return home shortly after school is out, this was an opportune time to meet them and get their observations of the past nine months in Kimball.
Both Anne-Marie and Junior attended sessions in their home countries before leaving for the United States. Students who had previously come to America as exchange students told them of the many things in store for them.
But there were still a few surprises.
Anne-Marie was amazed at how friendly everybody is here. "They'll just talk to you," she said, even if they don't know you, everywhere.
Junior was surprised to see that we often have friends of different ages. "There is more confidence to say something," she added. "You think of something and just say it."
Junior is from the Thai capitol, Bangkok. She loved the fresh air on the Kuechle farm. Anne-Marie loved American junk food, things like Skittles and Oreos. "I love Powder Ridge!" Anne-Marie exclaimed. "It was my favorite part of the whole year."
Anne-Marie has two younger brothers at home in Germany, and two younger brothers in her host family here. She'd always wanted a sister, and got just that living with the Ehlingers this past year. "I really enjoyed having a sister," she said. She enjoyed trips to Mount Rushmore and the North Shore with the Ehlingers.
Junior has a yonger sister at home in Thailand. She shared a home with the Kuechle's and their four children, two boys and two girls, one of whom is the same age as her sister at home. "It was a lot of fun having a lot of people in the house," she said.
Although she had a "really great year here," Anne-Marie naturally misses her friends and family ... and public transportation.
Besides friends and family, the one thing Junior missed most was food. It's hard to find many of the ingredients for Thai food here, and she hasn't yet tried the Thai restaurants in St Cloud. Not all Thai food is spicy, she explained, adding that she is not a fan of spicy food. Instead, Thai food has more ingredients than many other types of food, and therefore more layers of flavor.
Winter was a bit of a surprise for both Junior and Anne-Marie. It was for the rest of us too. "I thought winter was gonna be shorter," said Junior. "It was a little bit colder than I expected too."
"I really like that you can choose your classes here," said Anne-Marie. Neither Junior nor Anne-Marie would be able to take classes like cooking or sewing in their home schools.
Both girls will need to repeat this year of schooling once they return to their countries. For both, it's another two years before they complete high school. After that, Anne-Marie hopes to go to college and eventually become an aeronautical engineer. "I love science," she said. Junior wants to be an architect, and later perhaps a doctor.
"It was a really good decision to come over here," said Anne-Marie. "I liked it!" Her year here provided good experience with language, a new culture, and a different view of the world. If she were to do anything different, she said she might have joined a winter sport, perhaps to make the long winter pass more quickly.
Several of Junior's friends recommended being an exchange student. "This was a great opportunity to do something different, meet new friends, people and culture." She added, "It was fun!" If she were to do anything different, she said, it would be to ski more.
Anne-Marie's host parents are Tom and Karla Ehlinger. Junior's host parents are Ken and Dawn Kuechle. Both came to the United States through the Youth For Understanding program. Host families are always needed, through this and other programs. If you may be interested, you can contact Karla Ehlinger with YFU at (320) 398-5903 or Richard Barkalow with ASSE at (320) 259-1289.