Cultural Exchange

Each year in August, more than 5,000 excited, courageous and adventurous young people from over 25 countries with the Foreign Links Around the Globe international student exchange program (FLAG), pack their bags, leave the only home they have ever known and travel to the United States to study at high schools and universities. Texarkana and surrounding communities, such as New Boston and Maud, have had the pleasure of hosting some of these special students for the 2021-2022 school year. FLAG has been an industry leader since 1989. This is a program that creates bonds that last a lifetime, forever linking families across the globe. Over 60% of the time, FLAG students even return to visit their host families, or host families make trips to visit their students’ home countries.

Jayme English, local coordinator for FLAG, shared, “By hosting an exchange student, you will open yourself and your loved ones up to a new world of culture and unforgettable experiences—you are bringing the world together, one friend at a time!”

If you would like more information on how you can become an exchange student or a host family, contact Jayme English at [email protected] or go to flag-intl.org.


Judith Kramer

photo by Matt Cornelius

Why did you want to become a foreign exchange student?

My uncle was the first in my family to do an exchange year. I talked to my uncle about it, and he told me that he had so many positive experiences as an exchange student. I was absolutely impressed! I talked to my parents, and they thought it was a very good idea because at the same time I could improve my English, as I always had problems with it.

What has been your favorite experience in the United States?

One of my favorite experiences was my friend asked me if I wanted to go fishing with her and another friend. Of course, I said yes because it was the very first time for me. I found it so beautiful and relaxing. When I caught my first fish, I was so proud of it.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

I feel like I found myself. I always had my twin with me, and I guess I thought I could hide behind him. Here in the U.S., I had to do all things by myself. I think I’m not shy anymore, and I’m more responsible and confident. I also know now I can live in another English-speaking country and get along there.


Anton Krueckels

photo by Matt Cornelius

What has been your favorite experience in the United States?

I would say my favorite experience here was my first NFL football game when I went to see the Cowboys in Dallas. I’ve been to big stadiums in Germany, but the Cowboys stadium blew my mind. They don’t have football in Germany, so this whole experience was so unique and amazing for me.

Why did you want to become a foreign exchange student?

I always wanted to become a foreign exchange student because it was a great opportunity for me to grow, to experience a different culture, and to meet new people. I was curious about how other people live. It’s a terrifying thing to leave your home and your family for one year, but it’s also very exciting.

What was your opinion of the United States before you came here?

In Germany, we experience quite a bit of American culture through social media, movies and music. Germany was always boring to me because I’ve lived there my whole life, and America just seemed so much more exciting and fun—especially American high school. But I can’t lie to you. I had my stereotypes, especially about Texas. I thought it was just a bunch of cowboys with guns.

Have you learned new habits or traditions that you want to take back home with you when you go?

I really liked the Thanksgiving food, so I can see myself trying to cook turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving. I also liked all the Christmas lights that people put up. I’ll do that in Germany.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

I have learned that I am capable of leaving everything behind and starting all over. You need to literally step out of your comfort zone and leave your family, friends and everything that you considered home.


Eilidh MacDonald

photo by Matt Cornelius

Why did you want to become a foreign exchange student?

The American lifestyle has always intrigued and excited me! I am very passionate about learning about other people, other cultures and meeting new people. I have always loved to travel and becoming a foreign exchange student was the perfect opportunity to do that. Little did I know when signing up that it would be everything that I’d hoped for and more!

What was your opinion of the United States before you came here?

I wouldn’t say I had an opinion, but more of a stereotype. For example, when I found out my placement was in Texas, I thought I would be living amongst cowboys in the middle of the desert. I wondered if American schools would feel and be like I saw in the movies, if the accents would be strong, or the radio stations would be strictly country music. Some of what I expected was true, but as I also expected, there is so much more depth to it than that.

What has been your favorite experience in the United States?

It’s impossible to choose just one, but I’d like to say how grateful I am for the people I have met here–my family, my friends, my teachers and directors, my fellow exchange students and local coordinators. However, something entirely unique to America that has left me with a permanent flood of happy memories is high school football and the Friday night lights! For an American student in the school, this was just another Friday. For me, this was everything I had dreamed of and grown up thinking about America. It all came to life - the spirit, the pride, the excitement in the air. Getting to support your classmates in a sport that pumps adrenaline through your veins, chanting with the cheerleaders on the field, watching the showstoppers perform, feeling the band’s songs rush through you–there is nothing like that at home. It was exactly like I had stepped into a movie. It blows my mind how normal and average it is to so many people here.

Did you get to participate in any student sports or organizations? Tell us about that experience.

I took part in UIL speech (poetry) and UIL theatrical design. I got a bronze medal at district contest for speech, which meant I got to advance and compete at regionals. Theatrical design, however, took the cake for me. I won a state championship medal with my team of three other girls and our sponsor, Mrs. Beck. This is by the far the coolest thing I get to take home with me. Aside from the hardware being as bling as I like, I owe a lot of thanks to Pleasant Grove’s Curtain Call Productions. I can say I am a Texas State Champion. Not many people in Scotland get to say that!

Would you recommend this experience to other exchange students?

Absolutely, without a doubt, YES! This is easily the greatest thing I have ever done. I have learned more in a short ten months than I think have in years, about other people, about myself, about the world and about what I want to be in the next five years and beyond! I have gained so much! I have a new family and a new community of people that I will never forget. I have friends for life from all over the world and ultimately an excitement about life and what it offers that I never had before. I feel like a new and improved version of myself in the very best way!


Kana Okuba

submitted photo

What was your opinion of the United States before you came here?

I was thinking Americans don’t hesitate to express their opinion. I believe this is a very important thing—to respect different opinions and accept it. In Japan, people tend to be scared to say their opinions, especially when it’s different from others.

What has been your favorite experience in the United States?

It would be Halloween or Christmas. Both holidays were way bigger events than I thought. For Halloween, my host family hosted a big party. We planned it for a month! We made spider rooms and scared people. We invited friends, family and other exchange students and they all wore costumes. At Christmas, we decorated the house, Christmas tree and yard. I had fun exchanging gifts with many of my friends and my host family. I gave them Japanese gifts. My host parents planned a surprise shopping trip to Little Rock. I also had multiple parties every week. It was the busiest month I’ve ever had, but I definitely had a lot of fun.

Has it been as difficult as expected being away from your family for this entire year?

Yes. For me, being away from my family was the most difficult issue to overcome during this year. I cried many times. I realized how much I love my family and I started to appreciate them more. I’m excited to see my family again.

What has been the biggest difference in your life here versus your life at home?

I came here from Tokyo, so New Boston was a whole different environment compared to my hometown. But I love small communities. Everyone knows each other, which never happens in Tokyo. Also, we get eggs from a chicken every morning, I can ride horses, and I get to touch cows.

Have you learned new habits or traditions that you want to take back home with you when you go?

One thing that I learned from my host family was how important it is to do things for not only me, but others. My host family loves to plan surprises for others, help others and make others happy. I want to be like them and think not only about myself, but about people around me.


Lando Winter

photo by Matt Cornelius

Did you participate in any student sports or organizations?

I had already played tennis for quite a while before I came here, and there is nothing I love more than being able to play. My school here didn’t have a tennis program, but thanks to my host mom and some other people in my school district, we were able to sign me up for the district tournament. My host parents would take me to different practices and tournaments before district to get ready and when it was time, I was ready. I got first place in district and went to the regional tournament in Dallas. There, I got beat in the final but advanced to state as second place. In the state tournament, I was ready and played a lot better and made it through to the third round to become State Champion. I was happy and proud of what I achieved, but also very thankful for everyone supporting me on this journey, especially my host parents.

What was your opinion of the United States before you came here?

In my imagination, America was always the country of unlimited opportunities and chances, and I was super excited when I found out that I could live there for ten months.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

I have learned that I can achieve so much more with hard work and dedication and that it is important to leave your comfort zone to get better.


 

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