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Fun, English mastery on exchange students' list

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Improving language skills is a top priority for Wadena-Deer Creek High School's nine foreign exchange students this year. While proficiency in English pronunciation is important, having fun tops their list, too.

Daniela Mancuso, Brazil, wants to have a life experience and learn another culture, she said. She's played games and visited surrounding towns with her host family. She joined the volleyball team and likes her classes.

"The teachers are nice," she said.

German student Michelle Weber's sister was in North Carolina two years ago and told her all about the United States. But Weber wanted to experience the culture for herself.

"I heard everything on TV about America and I think you have to see it for yourself," she said.

Weber hasn't experienced any surprises so far, but she did surprise the Americans when she started bagging her own groceries at Super One, she said.

Shintaro Arakaki, Japan, visited Boston for three weeks a couple of years ago and saw a lot of differences between his country and the United States, he said. That's when he decided to become a foreign exchange student.

Oliver Purup, Denmark, has also visited the United States before. He's visited Miami, California and he even went to a place around 30 miles from here six years ago, although he doesn't remember the name of the town.

"I like [the] U.S.," he said. "It's cool over here."

Purup joined the football team and will start hockey soon.

Sung Ho Jang, South Korea, wants to play football, too, although he was a little bit sad there isn't a soccer team at WDC, he said.

He became a foreign exchange student so he can learn about American culture, he said. He wants to make friends here.

Jang doesn't miss his family yet, he said.

Pia Runge, Germany, wasn't sure she wanted to study overseas because she would miss her family, she said. She changed her mind, however, after her sister went to New Zealand as a foreign exchange student.

"I thought maybe it would ... also be interesting for me [to] see another country," Runge said.

She is glad she did, she said.

"I miss home a lot, but I can live here," she said.

Runge likes her classes, she said.

"It's not that hard," she said. "In Germany we always have to talk in class with the teacher, and if you don't you get a very bad grade. Here, you can just listen and write."

Aline Da Cruz, Brazil, likes the school here, she said. There are lots of sports.

"Brazil [doesn't] have a lot of sports," she said. "They just have classes and learning."

She's gone to lots of volleyball games this year, she said, because her host sister is on the team.

Weber is very thankful for her host family, she said.

"My host family tries to get me involved ... and they talk to me all the time," Weber said. "I think they really care about me."