Families open doors to exchange students
Ron and Valerie Kampfer have made being a host family a tradition.
For the second consecutive school year, the couple has opened its home to foreign exchange students. Last fall, Karolin Beyer Germany joined the couple.
After getting to know students through course of a school year, Valerie said saying goodbye to exchange children can be difficult.
"I know when Karolin leaves I'll be devastated," Valerie said.
The Kampfers are involved with American Scandinavian Student Exchange, an international student exchange program. The ASSE now brings youth from across the world to the United States. Now in their second year of sponsoring exchange students, the Kampfers are quite involved in the program -- Valerie is a regional coordinator for Missouri, Iowa and southern Illinois and Ron is a local representative for the organization.
Next year, the couple plans to sponsor a student from the former Soviet Union through the Flex Program.
Another student, Christian Pasche, attends Basehor-Linwood and lives with Glen and Barbara Courtwright. Barbara is Valerie's sister-in-law. And Corinna Brunner, who attends Tonganoxie High, lives with Michael and Kathy Jordan.
¢ Tim Yam came to Tonganoxie through the Educational Resource Development Trust, a nonprofit educational foundation.
¢ But the organization has more exchange students awaiting families. And Jon Smrtic, ERDT program coordinator for Tonganoxie, said the foundation needs more host families for the next school year.
¢ Students will arrive in August and will stay with the host family until the end of the school year or for only one semester.
¢ The host families must provide a bed and meals, while the students are covered by medical insurance and have spending money for books, lunches and other personal expenses. The students are between the ages of 15 and 18 and speak English.
¢ For more information, contact Smrtic at (913) 727-3333.
Tonganoxie High School has two other exchange students enrolled this year. Tim Yam from Hong Kong and Enrique Gallion from Tres Cantos, Spain, came to Tonganoxie in the fall also. Through the Educational Resource Development Trust, Yam is staying with Ron and Kari Wagner. Tom Ryan and Tammy Jordan are Gallion's host parents through the Program of Academic Exchange.
Adjusting to the U.S.
Transportation in the Tonganoxie area floored the three German foreign exchange students.
"We missed the public transportation," Pasche said.
In Germany, the students are accustomed to taking a bus or train to get where they need to go.
"I would say 90 percent of people ride bikes to school," Pasche said.
That too is a change from the United States these days.
"That's very American, I think -- trucks and SUVs," Pasche said.
Beyer said that before they came to the United States they were told that people in America were really proud of their country and that they don't know much about the rest of the world.
The students said that perceptions were somewhat true.
"They're really patriotic," Pasche said.
"Patriotism is so strong here," the Spanish student said.
Gallion had a perception before coming to America that still is somewhat vibrant with him -- the United States is invading his country. But it's not in a military sense.
"Because the United States controls so many things, like film making, car making and the space shuttle industry, we got the feeling that this country is invading other countries," he said. "That's more the feeling we got from this country.
"I don't know whether it's that we're jealous or don't like this country, but that's what we think."
Gallion referred to chains such as McDonalds and Burger King also invading Spain, but he admitted a certain affection for the fast food.
"I love McDonald's and Burger King," Gallion said. "I know it's really unhealthy, but I love it."
Education combined with extracurricular activities appears to be the most drastic change for the five students.
Back home, sports and other activities are separate from school. But in the United States, they obviously go hand-in-hand.
At Basehor-Linwood, Pasche was on the forensics and scholars bowl team and in the school play. Pasche helped BLHS to the Class 4A state championship in scholars bowl. Beyer has participated in volleyball and track and was in the school play. Brunner, meanwhile, competed in basketball and currently is in track. Yam and Gallion both played soccer in the fall and Yam currently is on the track team. He also is involved in Future Business Leaders of America.
Gallion has noticed a distinct difference in the sports worlds between the U.S. and Spain.
"Soccer is just like football here," Gallion said. "It's all moving around soccer and a lot of money. Everyone watches the game and talks about the game.
"Here it's not the same."
Bad news from home
Gallion comes from a suburb of roughly 20,000 people, but it's a suburb of Madrid -- population 4 million.
Last month, news from Madrid grabbed Gallion from across the Atlantic.
A series of bombs planted on city trains killed nearly 200 and injured roughly 1,000 and It's believed that Al-Qaeda operatives planted the bombs.
No one Gallion knew was on the trains when the attacks occurred.
"I was pretty concerned," Gallion said. "I was really nervous. I didn't really know how big it was but I was really upset and really angry.
Gallion called his family from the high school to make sure they were OK and watched the news on the terrible attack that evening.
Initial reports linked the bombings to a Spanish group, but later it was thought to have Al-Qaeda ties.
"When they said in the news Al-Qaeda was related to the bombings, I really got upset because I thought it was caused by the allegiance of Spain with the Iraqi war and many Spanish people opposed the war," Gallion said.
None of Gallion's family or friends was injured in the blasts, but Gallion said the terrorist attack was the worst such bombing in the country's history. Since the attack, Spain has elected a new prime minister and has begun to pull its troops from Iraq.
Yam has been to the United States before. He has visited Los Angeles, and, for the last three years has studied in Vancouver, Canada. Yam, who was born in Canada, stayed with relatives while attending school there. Aside from that, the Hong Kong resident has visited Taiwan.
Beyer also has visited that country, and has been to England, Luxembourg and Cuba -- a country that's supposed to be off-limits to U.S. citizens.
That vacation spot didn't set well with some local residents.
"When you tell them I was in Cuba, they tell you, 'Communist country, how could you?'" Beyer said. "It's not like you got shot on the streets.
"It's so nice with the ocean. The people are so friendly."
Brunner, who also has been to Cuba, said Caribbean music lingers throughout the streets. Even though she said many people there are poor, the country also thrives on bringing in visitors.
"They live off the tourists a lot," Brunner said.
"And the cigars," Beyer said.
Some locals have picked the exchange students brains for knowledge about their countries, but one might wonder what native students were thinking.
For instance, one student asked Brunner, who is from the eastern portion of Germany, whether she spoke fluent German.
"I was asked if Hitler was still alive," she said.
"I got asked if I know what a car is," Beyer added.
Pasche relayed a question another exchange student at BLHS -- from Austria -- was asked.
"They asked if she had kangaroos in her back yards," Pasche said.
As for Yam, he fielded questions regarding his cuisine in China.
"Most people ask me do Chinese eat cats and dogs, and we don't," Yam said with a chuckle.
Food, food and food
There are however, a few things the exchange students are more accustomed to eating in their countries.
In Germany, the students said they eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, while bread is a staple part of the diet.
"Two words: Bread and chocolate," Pasche said.
Bread in Germany is firm and crispy, while stew is not as thick.
"Here it's like a sponge," Karolin said about the bread.
In Spain, Gallion said vegetables are used more in meals.
"A lot of legumes and meat -- we don't put it in a bun," Gallion said. "A little olive oil is very important in the diet in Spain.
"And the more you go the north, more fish in the north."
Chinese food in America is OK in Yam's book, but it doesn't compare to home.
"It's not Hong Kong," he said. "It's kind of Americanized."
Yam said steamed eggs and fish were signature foods in Hong Kong.
The students mentioned various foods they've missed, but they also acquired tastes for some food in America.
Beyer likes cinnamon rolls, while Brummer now likes Little Debbie's Star Crunches and chocolate graham crackers.
"Cinnamon graham crackers," Pasche said.
Gallion appreciates the hamburger, while Yam now craves a good steak, something he doesn't eat in China.
When their exchange time at Tonganoxie has finished, students will pack their bags and head home.
Germany is a country that still has a definitive economic structure dating back to before the Berlin Wall fell nearly 15 years ago, according to Brunner.
"You get a lot better jobs in the eastern part and a lot more money over there," Brunner said.
Beyer, from Bad Lausick, and Pasche, from Letschin, live in eastern Germany. Brunner, who is from Winneden, hails from western Germany.
This summer, the trio will venture back to Germany and make up the year in school that they lost. But not before they partake in an American tradition -- prom.
"We have something very similar, but it's boring," Brunner said.
As for Yam and Gallion, they've been away from their countries' educational systems for a longer period.
Last year, Gallion participated in an exchange program with France.
Then there's Yam, who has studied in the western hemisphere the last four years.
But he would like to spend even more time in the United States.
When the college years arrive, he would like to attend an American university.
"In high school, we have one more year to study," Yam said. "I think if I have a chance I would really like to study in America because teachers are really nice.
"They're nicer than in my countries."