Telstar as seen through the eyes of foreign students
Classes are smaller.
Students move around from teacher to teacher through the school day.
There are more activities outside of school.
Life at Telstar High School is very different from home for three foreign students who are studying here this year. But they are finding ways to adjust to, and in some cases even like, aspects of American education and the lifestyle here.
The amount of time that Jiranan (“Pin”) Jintasataporn of Thailand, Yae Reem Lee from South Korea, and Angie Hohnholt of Germany have spent in Maine varies widely among them.
Pin, 18, was a foreign exchange student attending Dirigo High School last year. She has returned for another year of American schooling, this time at Telstar.
Yae Reem attended Mountain Valley High School as a tuition student for the spring semester last year, and is attending Telstar just this semester.
Angie, 15, is a newly-arrived foreign exchange student.
The three share a common reason for coming to the U.S.: language skills.
“I wanted to improve my English,” said Pin.
When she first arrived in Dixfield last year, communication was a challenge – and a source of laughter.
“The first time I went to church, a lady asked me, ‘How have you been?’” said Pin. “I thought she asked me how I got here, and I answered, ‘Airplane.’”
Angie loves adventure, and that passion was another reason she came to America.
“I like new experiences,” she said.
Yae Reem, 17, hopes to continue her American education after she completes high school requirements in January. She is applying to Cornell University to study architecture.
Not surprisingly, her favorite subject at Telstar is math.
The three young women found the American high school format of going from room to room for different classes unusual.
In Germany, said Angie, classes have around 30 students, who stay in one location for the school day while the teachers rotate in.
Pin and Yae Reem described similar systems in their home countries.
Another difference they found is the large number of after-school activities here. Angie, who said her favorite class is physical education, plans to take advantage of the sports offerings.
She’s already playing field hockey – a new sport to her. She plans to go out for basketball (she played at home) this winter, and softball (another new one) in the spring.
And because she’s living in Greenwood, near Mt. Abram, she’s also planning some outings on the slopes.
Yae Reem participated in cheering when she was at Mt. Valley, and enjoyed it.
Pin, who had never participated in sports at home, played tennis last year, and even tried skiing – even though she hadn’t seen snow until she arrived here.
“Skiing is really fun,” she said.
Beyond the school, in the larger community, Bethel’s rural nature is familiar to Angie but was more of an adjustment for the other two students.
Angie comes from the small town of Neelstedt, in Northwest Germany, a place comparable in size to Bethel.
Yae Reem hails from the small city of Boruing, so Western Maine seems quieter.
Pin, who comes from a larger city, had the biggest adjustment. “Here, I go home and study, and go to bed,” she said.
But she does appreciate some things rural. “The air is fresher,’ she said. “Here, I can see the stars at night.”
Pin has found one place that provides some of the bustle of home. “I like to go to Walmart,” she said. “I always have fun when I go there. I think because of the food ... love it,” she said. She also enjoys shopping.
Pin continues to live in Dixfield with her host family from last year while she commutes to Bethel.
“They feel like my second family,” she said.
Yae Reem is also staying put, in Rumford, and commuting for the fall semester.
As for life after Telstar, Pin hopes to attend university in Thailand after she graduates in the spring. Like Yae Reem, she enjoys math, but isn’t sure yet what she will study as a major.
Angie, though young, has her sights set on being an airplane pilot – another side of her adventurous spirit.
‘I like traveling, I like adventure, and I want to see the world,” she said.