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Making The Exchange Students Ready For Adventure
A whole new world is opening up for four young foreign exchange students, here to spend the school year at Escalon High. They come from diverse countries, but all come with the goal of learning more about the American way of life and American culture during their stay.

Enrolled this year at Escalon High are Eline Van Hoek, 17, from The Netherlands; Farheen Yousuf, 15, from Pakistan; Michael Hempelmann, 17, from Germany; and Kian Rashidi, 15, from Germany.

Van Hoek is a senior, staying with the David and Leticia Contreras family.

"I like every small thing," she said of what she has enjoyed so far. "It's so different here, everything is an experience."

She lists her favorite class as drama.

"In Holland there are no fun classes," said the teen.

Along with her schoolwork, getting immersed in American culture and making new friends, Van Hoek is also playing on the varsity volleyball team.

"I like to try everything," she said.

Yousuf is a junior and will celebrate her 16th birthday in December, far from home. She is staying with the John and Tina Simoes family.

"There's so much difference between here and there," she said of comparing life in Pakistan and Escalon. "I want to study here."

Noting that the school she attended in Pakistan had students just in one classroom, her new schedule has taken some getting used to.

"In Pakistan the schools are small and this school is smaller than other U.S. schools but it's big for me," she said. "I like to change the classes."

She plans to get involved in track in the spring and has so far enjoyed doing some sightseeing and tried swimming for the first time.

"Everything is totally different, totally new," she said. "I love it all."

Also staying with the Simoes family is senior Hempelmann, who is running cross country this fall and previously visited the United States for a few weeks in 2007.

"We have many influences of the American culture," he said of his homeland of Germany.

Still adjusting to school, Hempelmann said he is slowly getting used to his new surroundings.

"School is not really difficult but it's a lot of homework every day," he said. "The language, it's a new vocabulary and that makes it difficult."

But with new friends from the cross country team, he is working to transition into the culture of EHS.

He also had the chance to try a jet ski at a local lake recently.

"It was amazing," he said with a smile.

Sophomore Rashidi is staying with the Shelly Walker family and has joined the JV football team, where he handled all the kickoff and punting duties in the season opener on Friday night. He also has a family history with the exchange program.

My brother was here (in the U.S.) six years ago, I wanted to come here and learn the language," Rashidi said. "Everybody talks about America and I wanted to come and see it."

He lists conditioning as his favorite class so far but admitted it can be tough juggling schoolwork and practice.

"The hardest part is the school day is pretty long," he said.

Rashidi likes playing football and said that is a good way to make some friends. He also is considering playing basketball in the winter,

All four students keep in touch regularly with family back home, primarily via the Internet, and all are slated to be here through the end of the school year in May.

"Obviously it really allows the student body to have their eyes opened to a broader world out there," Escalon High School Principal Joel Johannsen noted of welcoming the exchange students to the campus. "It brings a greater awareness."