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Mumford exchange students find fun, friendships

America is not quite what German exchange student Til Bartens expected. But he said he’s not disappointed. 

“I thought it would be like the movies; like ‘High School Musical’,” Barten said. “But it’s amazing here. People are very nice.”

German exchange student Til Bartens laughs at a classmate’s presentation at Mumford on Oct. 23. Bartens is one of two foreign exchange students this year. Photo by Daija Thomas.

Mumford High School has two foreign exchange students this year, and it’s the first time in many years. 

Bartens’ host parents, Justin and Tiera Schaaf, said they wanted to give somebody the opportunity to learn about American culture. 

“It’s one thing to see it on television, but when you actually come here and live it and see it every single day it’s different,” Tiera Schaaf said.

The Schaafs were interested because one of their friends has hosted exchange students. They followed International Cultural Exchange Services on Facebook and saw profiles of interested students including a list of their interests.

“When we saw Til’s profile we were like ‘wow this would almost be our kid if we had a kid.’ Everything he liked we liked.” Schaaf said. “When they saw us commenting and going back and forth, they were like you guys should go ahead, and we were like alright I guess we’re doing it.”

Mumford’s other exchange student is Suphakit (Frank) Saengsawan from Thailand. He called Mumford “awesome” and “wonderful” and said all his teachers and friends support him, but he finds school in the U.S. very different from how it is in Thailand.

“In the USA we have more opportunities to do what we want. If you want to do basketball, you do basketball; if you want to do football, you do football,” Saengsawan said. 

Saengsawan wanted to be on the student council, and now he’s on the student council. 

Despite the language barrier, Saengsawan has no difficulty passing his English class. His grammar is “awesome” his English teacher Katie Palonis said.

“Sometimes when he’s talking I have to listen really closely,” Palonis said. “But when it comes to writing and doing his work, no problem.”


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