Leesville’s exchange students for the 2023-2024 school year 

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The five exchange students at Leesville Road High School this year are all European, coming from Germany, France, Spain, and the Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)


During the 2023-2024 school year, Leesville Road High School is welcoming five exchange students from foreign countries to join the student body. 

The five exchange students are all girls in eleventh grade, hailing from Germany, France, Spain, and the Czech Republic. 

Traveling through various programs, the exchange students will be staying with Leesville host families the duration of the school year in order to immerse themselves in American culture and improve their English skills. 

The exchange students 

Elsa Hermann is a sixteen year old exchange student from Stuttgart, Germany. Traveling through AFS Intercultural Programs, Hermann arrived in August and joined the LRHS cross country team before the start of the school year. 

Throughout the school year, Hermann wants to explore her curiosity for American culture and push herself out of her comfort zone. 

“It probably started in my school where we had an English class and we learned about the United States,” said Hermann. “I wanted to experience the highschool life and live in a host family to grow and…get more independent.”

Also from Germany, sixteen-year-old Daniela Fruend is staying with a host family through the program International Experience for the duration of the school year. Fruend is from Munich, nearly two and a half hours away from Hermann in Stuttgart. 

“I’m from Munich, the city with Oktoberfest. Me and my friends always visit it three time a year, it’s very fun,” Fruend said. 

During her exchange experience, Fruend wishes to expand her understanding of American culture and her knowledge of English. 

“My school in Germany supported it and I just wanted to get to know a new culture and also improve my English,” said Fruend.

In the same exchange program as Fruend, fifteen-year-old Ines Hernandez Arnal is from the capital of Spain, Madrid. Arnal is the youngest of the five exchange students, having been placed a grade higher at Leesville than she was in Spain.

Arnal is determined to advance her understanding of the English language by meeting people in the United States, and has dedicated herself to complete immersion in her year-long “new life”.

“I want to improve my English and I want to live a new life for a year…and make new friends in other cultures,” said Arnal. 

From the neighboring country to Spain, sixteen-year-old Salma Mekki has traveled to the United States from France. Mekki is traveling through the international exchange program Borderless Friends Forever (BFF). 

Mekki is already fluent in French and Arabic and is hoping to spend her experience as an exchange student improving her English while making new friends. 

“First, it’s for the language. I want to be good [with] the language because I speak French and Arabic, but I want to learn English,” Mekki said. “And for the American dream… the culture, the language, the people are different here, so I want to try this.”

Rebeka Mayerova is a sixteen year old from the Czech Republic that is staying with the same host family as Mekki and traveling through the same program. 

Mayerova is interested in experiencing highschool in the United States and learning how to improve her English with native speakers. 

When asked about why she wanted to become an exchange student in the United States, Mayerova said, “The English and the highschool experience…”

Challenges 

Despite their eagerness to improve their English speaking skills and engage in American culture, all five exchange students have already had to overcome challenges in their first week of school in the States. 

“My big challenge here is to make friends and learn much, because the vocabulary is specific and different in France,” said Mekki.

Even though the exchange students are exceptional at speaking English, making friends in a foreign country can be difficult, especially at a school as large as Leesville. According to Niche.com, Leesville has over 2,600 students.  

Learning in English also poses a challenge to the exchange students, who are learning new English vocabulary that is unfamiliar to them in all subjects. 

When asked about her main struggles as an exchange student, Mayerova said, “I got very lost in class, and I didn’t understand all of the vocabulary, so that’s kind of hard.”

In addition to obstacles related to school, the exchange students have also had to encounter some differences culturally. Between variations in school environment, leisure time, and public transport. 

“I wouldn’t say that it was a culture shock, but there is so many [things] different here, so I had to get used to the lifestyle…,” said Freund. “I can’t use my bike anymore, for example, and I have to go everywhere by car. That was very unfamiliar to me because I used to drive everywhere by bike, bus, or train.”

Positives

On the other hand, the exchange students have also had many positive experiences during their first week of school in the United States. 

“It’s very nice to learn about yourself and become friends with international people, and to talk in another language,” said Hermann. 

All the exchange students mentioned the positive impact from the people they have met so far. Whether that be at school or in their host families, any sort of kindness has not gone unnoticed by them in a foreign, unfamiliar country. 

“I think people here are very friendly and very open-minded,” said Fruend. “They come to you and ask you questions, so that’s what I like.”

On the topic of host families, Mekki enthusiastically added: “I love my host family!”

In addition to meeting new people, cultural immersion was an exciting topic that the exchange students were eager to discuss. Gaining insight from American media such as tv shows and movies, all of the exchange students seemed to have an idea of what American culture and the American highschool experience would entail. 

“I love getting to know new cultures,” said Mayerova, when asked about what her favorite part of being an exchange student was. 

The differences in American holidays and traditions also excited the exchange students, who all come from different countries with different methods of celebration. 

“I want to stay here for Halloween and Christmas, because in Spain we don’t celebrate like that,” added Arnal. 

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