Great exchange experiences lead to sad goodbyes for students

Photo by Cathy Nelson/Fall River County Herald

The exchange students who attended Hot Springs High School and Edgemont High School for 10 months are shown with the Education First High School Exchange Year coordinator Jan Becker, second from left. On either side of Becker are Hot Springs exchange students Jinth Umbach of Druten, the Netherlands, left, and Clara Munk Peterson of Jyderup, Denmark, on Becker’s right. Far right, is Anja Andrasevic of Frederiksvaerk, Denmark. The students said that they grew close to their new friends and their hosts and found it difficult to leave them.

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By Cathy Nelson

HOT SPRINGS – Tears flowed as the three exchange students shared how hard it was for them to say goodbye to the close friends they have made while attending school and staying in host homes in Hot Springs and Edgemont this past school year. The students left on airplanes in late May to return to their individual homes.

 Jinthe Umbach, age 18, of Druten, the Netherlands, and Clara Munk Petersen, age 16, of Jyderup, Denmark, stayed in the home of Brian and Madonna Spitzer in Hot Springs. Anja Ardrasevic, age 16, of Frederiksvaerk, Denmark, stayed in the home of Louie and Linda Tidball of Edgemont and attended Edgemont High School.

“This year changed my perspective on my life in general,” Umbach said. “You learn a lot about yourself. I’ve grown a lot and learned more about my strengths and weaknesses.”

Ardrasevic said it was the best year and the hardest year of her life. “I have great memories,” she said. “I made a lot of friends. Two of my best friends are like sisters. I don’t want to leave them.”

Peterson said she wants to come back here. “I built the same life in 10 months here as I did in the 16 years in Denmark,” she said. “I have become attached to South Dakota and Hot Springs.”

These three and four other students were in the West River area this past year as exchange students with the Education First (EF) High School Exchange Year program. Jan Becker of Hot Springs is the coordinator for both the local and West River EF High School Exchange Year. The program has been promoting global awareness through student exchange for more than 30 years. The international students come from more than 13 countries. Becker said she and her husband, Steve, have personally hosted about 24 students over the years.

As coordinator, Becker brings the students together monthly for special events and activities such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, ice skating, hiking the Badlands, a Rush hockey game, and much more.

“It’s nice for them to talk with someone doing the same thing,” she said about the students, “and the hosts can talk to each other in a fun setting.”

Becker explained that host families are not obligated to take trips to entertain the students. “EF offers Discovery Tours if hosts can’t take them,” she said.

The three girls who were here and one who was in Custer became good friends. “They live close to each other in Europe and will probably remain lifetime friends,” Becker said.

For Andrasevic and Umbach it was their first time in the United States. Petersen has traveled in the U.S. several times, and, because of that, she started looking into becoming an exchange student when she was in eighth grade. “My parents said I could go when I became 15 years old,” she said.

Umbach, who has a twin sister, said when EF came to her school she started thinking about becoming an exchange student. It took two years to convince her parents to let her go. Her twin stayed at their own school.

“I learned English in a different way,” Umbach said. “It helps to experience it.” She explained that she also learned French, but with no day-to-day experience, she has forgotten a lot of what she learned.

As a junior, Umbach was involved in cross country, basketball, and track and field. Her favorite activities were to play sports or watch games and hang out with friends. Back home she enjoys playing field hockey and hanging out with friends. She plans to attend the university and study bio-pharmaceutical sciences.

Petersen was a junior here and was on the yearbook staff and played soccer. Her favorite activity was hiking and hanging out with her friends and host family. Back home she plans to attend college (or gymnasium, as it is called in her country). Her favorite pastime is hanging out with her friends and family.

 Andrasevic was also a junior. Her school activities included volleyball, basketball, track, choir and student council. Her favorite activities were the state track meet and prom. Her favorite subject in school was Spanish. She will attend college (gymnasium) back home. Hanging out with friends is her favorite pastime.

When asked what they would do different upon their arriving here if they had it to do again, Umbach said she would reach out to others more and get to know them faster.

Peterson agreed that she would be more outgoing. “I feel I did pretty well,” she said.

Andrasevic said she would be less quiet, although as time passed she developed some “real good friends.”

“All of them have grown,” Becker said. “They go home Americanized.”

In addition to these three girls, Oelrichs High School also hosted an exchange student this year as well. 

David (Jui-Yang) Hung came to Oelrichs from Taiwan, whose host was the Heath and Berline Greenough. While at Oelrichs, he participated in cross country and basketball. He also represented Oelichs High School at the Math Competition in Chadron, Neb.

See page A8 for more information about David Hung and his stay in Oelrichs.

Fall River County Herald

EDGEMONT OFFICE: PO Box 660 Edgemont, SD  57735-0660   |   605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St. Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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