Four of this year’s foreign exchange students at Escalon High School hail from Germany, a fifth is from South Africa and all are looking forward to the new adventures that await them as American high school students.
From Germany are Carla Hemming, Sarah Herth, Simon Mueller and Annalena Simson, with Linda Mbambo from South Africa. The five plan to spend the entire school year with host families in the local area, immersing themselves in the culture and learning all they can about America.
Hemming, the youngest of the group at 15, is a junior and living with the Dykxhoorn family on South Van Allen Road.
“I want to learn the language, to see high school and everything American,” Hemming said of her reasons for coming to this country as an exchange student at such a young age. She will turn 16 in December.
Early impressions for her are that high schools here have a different focus than she is used to.
“Here are many sports,” she said. “In our school system, you don’t have as many.”
Hemming said her favorite class is biology, which she has with teacher Sue Gentry. She also has Spanish I, English III and U.S. History among her classes.
Classified as a senior this year, 16-year-old Sarah Herth is living with the Dodge family on Chablis and is enjoying school but also looks forward to the weekends.
“I enjoy more to do things with family and friends, take trips,” she said.
“But every day is very busy with work, all kinds of stuff.”
Herth, who said she has wanted to come to America as an exchange student for the past couple of years, has a full class schedule as well, ranging from economics to art, floral design to civics.
The lone boy in the group of five, Simon Mueller is 16, living with the Walker family on Biederman Road and is classified as a junior at Escalon High.
He said his reason for becoming a foreign exchange student is pretty basic.
“For the experience, pretty much,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to know about America.”
He has joined up with the soccer team this fall and said he also plans to play guitar by the time he heads back home.
“I want to learn,” he said.
He also will be working on his English skills in English III class, has an animal science course and is in trigonometry/pre-calculus, with a full course load.
“The hardest part,” he added, “I think, is to get into the different culture…”
But, he said, he is thoroughly enjoying being part of the Friday night football crowd and plans to participate in many activities during the year.
Annalena Simson is also a junior, turned 16 in July and is living with the Simoes family.
“I want to learn the language,” she said of a goal while she is here.
Her sights are also set on playing soccer in the spring for Escalon, while she is already suiting up for the varsity volleyball team. As for school, she has some favorites as well.
“I love history,” Simson said, adding she also likes teacher Mr. Young, who makes the history class fun and interesting. Her favorite food, she added, is Mexican.
From South Africa, 17-year-old Linda Mbambo is a senior who also lives with the Dykxhoorn family.
“We are in the middle of winter,” she said of her home country. “It was hard bouncing back to the hot summer.”
As far as school, she found adapting to changes she wasn’t expecting was a bit difficult at first.
“We wear uniforms,” she said. “We tie our hair back, we don’t wear makeup.”
However, she is finding having choices fun and she is looking forward to focusing on school classes, which include psychology and civics in addition to jazz and wind ensemble music classes.
She said playing music has helped her make friends already, as she ‘hangs out’ with the people she performs with in the band.
Looking at almost a full year away from home, the foreign exchange students said they do stay in touch with family as much as possible, and all have left siblings behind. They talk, Skype and face time whenever possible, and all said they are eager to full enjoy their year as Cougars.