Exchange students tell of their experiences

James Howell Jr. | Daily NewsDecatur County’s current foreign exchange students speak with the Decatur County Retired Teachers Association.

GREENSBURG — Seven foreign exchange students in Decatur County spoke on Thursday morning at the meeting of the Decatur County Retired Teachers Association about their experiences.

The students explained what school they attend in Decatur County, what their school in their home country is like and much more.

All students, as outlined by PAX academic exchange representative and community coordinator Sheryl Sefton Soendlin, are in their junior year in high school to both avoid the ISTEP test and influence graduation rates.

Pilar, a student at South Decatur High School, explained that she has enjoyed her time at South Decatur and her chance to make new friends. Originally from Spain, Pilar plans to return home to finish her last year of high school and then follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a doctor.

Marta, also a student at South Decatur, hails from Italy. Marta plans to return home after she finishes her year in Decatur County to finish high school. She explained high school in Italy, at her German arts school, takes five years to complete.

She explained that during her first months in America, she suffered greatly from being home sick. At that point, Sefton Soendlin took her cell phone from here and gave her a TracFone to call only her host parents. With that she could also Skype with her family in Italy once per week. The homesickness ended and she has enjoyed her stay as time progressed.

Alice, a student a North Decatur, is also from Italy but just south of where Marta is from. She explained that in Italy she attends public school and must use public transport. Her daily path to school takes around an hour, much different than her experience at North Decatur.

Alice believes that she wants to go to college to pursue learning more about languages and possibly work in Human Resources.

Queeniy, also a student at North Decatur, explained that she attends school from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at a boarding school in China. High School lasts just three years for her in China, but she is unable to choose her classes as they are chosen for her by the school counselor.

A member of the track team and academic team, Queeniy wants to someday become a chemical engineer.

Pim from Thailand, another student at North Decatur High School, explained the difficulties in being an exchange student.

“There are a lot of hard things, like real hard,” Pim said. “Like so hard that unless you have been an exchange student that you do not understand this at all. You become much more sensitive and you have to adapt your language and your culture.”

MJ at South Decatur explained what the experience has been like for her in athletics since coming from Mexico.

“I did volleyball and I was not very good at it,” MJ said. “I played basketball then and I was even worse at it. Now I am playing softball and I really like it and I am excited. We will see how that goes, because I have never played fast pitch before.”

Hermance, a student at Greensburg Community High School, explained that she has enjoyed her time in Decatur County as well. She, though only 15 years old, has already graduated in France.

Because of Hermance’s graduation, she was unable to compete in IHSSA athletics this year, but she remained with the teams despite not being able to compete. In France, Hermance is a competitive swimmer.

All of the students work alongside PAX. To learn about becoming a host parent in Decatur County, you can contact Sefton Soendlin at 812-663-9414 or by email at

Contact: James Howell Jr., 812-663-3111 x 7011;

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