Pocahontas County High School has welcomed two new members to the student body – Seungju “Julia” Lee, of South Korea; and Juan Pinto, of Columbia.
While the students come from very different backgrounds, they chose to be exchange students for similar reasons.
“I wanted to experience a new culture and new education, different from Korea,” Lee said. “I wanted to start a new school life.”
Along with experiencing a new place, Pinto said he signed up because he wanted to further his education.
“I want to improve my English,” he said. “I think, too, this is a very nice experience, to be given the opportunity to be in a different place and meet new people. It’s a very nice experience.”
Moving to Pocahontas County can be a culture shock for some, and neither student was fully prepared for how different the area would be compared to their home.
For Pinto, it wasn’t too different because he is from a small town in Columbia.
“It has a thousand and fifty habitants, so it’s bigger than this, but it is still like this,” he said. “It’s a very quiet little town and all people know all people.”
Lee, however, lived in a capitol city in South Korea, so she was used to large buildings and cityscapes.
“It’s very different from here,” she said. “There’s no buildings, only mountains. But still, I lived in Virginia [about ten years ago] so everything is quite similar where I lived there. I’m used to it, but still there’s nothing like the city. It’s quite new for me.”
Lee is a sophomore and is not sure what she wants to study in college, but plans to go to prep school once she returns to South Korea.
Pinto graduated from high school in Columbia last summer, but decided he wanted to spend 2016 in America to improve his English and decide where he wants to attend college.
“I’m looking for different options,” he said. “I want to take the ACT. It’s a very similar test that we have in Columbia. In Columbia it’s called ICFES. That test opens the doors for college, and I don’t know if I want to be here for college or return to Columbia.”
While they are in Pocahontas County, the students are living with host families. Pinto is living with Jacob and Malinda Meck, of Green Bank; and Lee is living with Wolfgang and Anja Baudler, also of Green Bank.
The Baudler’s daughter, Lara, is a senior at PCHS. Baudler explained that the family hosted a student from Brazil a few years ago and decided they wanted to be a host family again.
“We had so much fun with our last exchange student, and so a few years later we were like, ‘why don’t we do it again?’” Baudler said. “We saw Julia and we thought it would be interesting to learn some things about Korea, and so we decided we’d host her.”
Baudler said it is exciting to be a host family and she would recommend that other families give it a try.
“It’s really exciting to learn about new cultures from a person who lives there,” she said. “It’s fun to show people where we live and how we deal with things in every day, day-to-day life. I would say just go for it.”
Spanish teacher Shirlene Groseclose, who organizes the exchange student program, is looking for more host families. Anyone interested in the program may call Groseclose at 304-799-6565.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com