Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, there remains a glimmer of hope in the spirit of human connection. It shines in the form of 3 foreign-exchange students who have admirably taken an opportunity to come to KHS, despite the uncommon year we have to offer.
As members of the KHS community, we can all come to a consensus that this school year has taken an unexpected turn. As always, it is important to seek positive growth and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us, despite the changes we’ve seen. By choosing to spend a year in the United States, our foreign students have done just that.
At any point in time, we must give our exchange students their best possible year abroad. We must start by giving them a proper welcoming; today, we may not be able to host celebrations and gatherings, but we have other plausible options. No one could have expected the outcome of 2020, but we all can acknowledge the perspective-shifting decision these three students chose to make. By making this choice, we can already tell that Lucas, Lily, and Sara are open-minded and willing to explore the world around them. However, there are so many more amazing things we can learn about them. Today, I would like to introduce our students from around the world.
Our first exchange student (chosen in random order) is Sara Delcour, visiting from Theux, Belgium. Sara’s first language is French, though she is learning English here in the US. Impressively, she also speaks a bit of Spanish. For her exchange experience, Sara could only choose her country of schooling. Once her host family was found, she moved to Kennebunk, Maine, and was enrolled in Kennebunk High School. She finds it fascinating to be part of another family and enjoys experiencing dynamics different from her own. Of course, she does miss her Belgian family back at home all the same and wishes they could join her journey. Aside from her loved ones, Sara says, “I really miss my friends…and some food.” As a whole, though, Sara sees many similarities between American and Belgian cultures and sees no need to specifically incorporate her Belgian roots into American customs.
246 miles away from Theux, we see Hannover, Germany. From here, we welcome Lucas Pfuendel, also a senior. Lucas speaks a multitude of languages, including German, French, English, and some others. Like Sara, Lucas wished to complete his senior year in the United States and was directed to Kennebunk High School. When asked about his host family, Lucas expressed that they are “great, I’m super thankful for them,” even though he does miss his family from Germany. More so than his family, Lucas misses his friends, too, though he is making new ones in Maine. In general, Lucas sees many parallels in his daily life between the US and his native German culture. He does see some differences, but these “aren’t really transferable,” and are better left at home.
Last but not least, we welcome Ririka Ikebukuro, from Hyogo, Japan. Ririka, nicknamed ‘Lily’, mainly speaks Japanese, but she can also communicate in English. Similar to the other exchange students, Lily wished to spend her senior year in the US and was sent to her host family in Maine. Lily looks forward to “having fun with them” and immersing herself in the American experience before she has to head home in June. Lily was surprised to see the open land and “big shops” in the United States, as they contrast what she’s used to in Japan. There are many differences between Lily’s Japanese culture and American culture. Like many students who choose to spend a year abroad, Lily misses her family and friends and would like to share these experiences with them. However, she’s been having fun with new friends, even though “I struggle with English sometimes,” she says.
In Maine, our exchange students have obtained a very important lesson. Going to a new school always means learning new things, which is precisely what Lucas, Lily, and Sara have done. To their surprise, Sara and Lily have found that everyone in Maine “is so nice…even when they don’t know you”. To add, Lucas explains that he was surprised to see this “on a daily basis,” and has learned how to respect people he doesn’t know. As a community, this serves as a reward for our persistence to be kind to each other. It proves that our efforts have not gone unnoticed and should remain in place to keep this impression. Yet the kindness is not one-sided; Lucas, Lily, and Sara also demonstrated admirable qualities of friendliness and are extremely personable.
Though we currently have limitations in place by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to engage with our new students as much as possible. Our three exchange students have already taken advantage of some of KHS’s opportunities, including fall sports. While Lily and Sara joined the cheerleading team, Lucas chose to participate in our football program. Moving forward, it is important that we, as a student body, make them feel welcomed in everything that they do! There may not have been many events with opportunities to congregate this fall, but who knows what the future holds. Sometimes, even just a friendly wave or ‘hello’ in the hallway is enough to brighten the atmosphere (not just for new students…for anyone in general).
In closing, our community is incredibly lucky to have students that are still taking advantage of foreign-exchange programs. Thank you, Lily, Sara, and Lucas, for joining our community (even if you’re only here for a short time!), and are happy to welcome you to Kennebunk High School. Whether you’re an A, B, or C track student, we are glad to finally give you the introduction you deserve, and we look forward to what the rest of this year brings for us together. ⚝