Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
Exchange students take Hot Springs by storm. Pictured left to right: Janet Becker, regional coordinator for Education First, Filippa Enderlein of Denmark, Tabea Kuechler of Germany, and Ida Villumsen of Denmark.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Exchange students Tabea Kuechler (17) of Bederwitz, Germany, Filippa Enderlein (16) of Frederiksberg, Denmark and Ida Villumsen (16) Knebel, Denmark have called Hot Springs home since August of 2021.
“I got so lucky,” said Filippa of Hot Springs being her host home, “I live in really big city and it was like I completely disappeared, it’s such a big difference but a good difference, the people are really down to earth and I get to know a lot of people. I love Hot Springs.”
Filippa’s host family is Joseph and Jacqueline Schniers, along with host sister Kaiyana.
Her favorite part of Hot Springs is “the people, my family, my friends.”
Filippa began the process of applying to be an exchange student a year prior to actually coming to America.
While she had choices of other countries she chose America based on movies she had seen as a young girl.
“I remember when I was about 8 years old I was watching a movie about an American high school, and I remember thinking ‘that would be so cool’ to go to one,” she said.
Ida also enjoys her host family Steve and Jan Becker as well and her host country taking advantage of as many travel opportunities as possible.
“I would like to see more of the landscape,” she said of South Dakota and America in general; a young wandering spirit.
While here she has had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. She is excited to be traveling to the Rocky Mountains soon and will spend a week in New York before she heads home to Denmark.
Tabea has embraced her life in Hot Springs thoroughly enjoying her host family Kory and Julie Bossert, with host sister Ella.
“I spent, like, six months talking with them before I came, so it was already like they were my family,” she said, loving her host family so much she wishes for her two families to meet. “I hope my family comes back to America to visit my host family.”
Tabea was able to travel to Boston.
“I chose Boston because I wanted to see Harvard,” she smiled, “if I come here for college I would like to try to go there.”
She enjoyed taking family vacations with her host family, one of which was to North Dakota for Christmas, she summed up that visit in a few words, “It was cold.”
Tabea comes from the smallest village with a population of about 100. However, she attends school about 10 miles away in a town of approximately 40,000.
“Ever since I knew about the exchange student program I knew I wanted to be an exchange student,” said Tabea. She explained that her mother’s family hosted exchange students from South Africa, America and Australia. Apparently that set the ball in motion for her mother and uncles as they all became exchange students themselves. So growing up hearing the stories Tabea thought “that is so cool” and planned to carry on the family tradition.
She wanted it so badly Tabea worked and saved to help offset the cost for her family.
All the young women learned English at an early age as both Denmark and Germany require English to be taught in the schools beginning in the third grade.
Their linguistic skills made the transition to an American high school relatively seamless.
All are involved in sports from track to volleyball and gymnastics.
Each young lady had to submit an application that consisted of interviews, essays, submission of transcripts, and more.
“We have to have good grades, not be doing anything bad, like, drugs or alcohol and be mentally well too,” said Filippa.
Jan Becker, Regional Coordinator Education First exchange program, confirmed that the application process can take months and includes academic records, health certificates and more, including costs carried by the students families.
“They are also graded on their oral skills,” said Becker.
Oral proficiency is deemed a necessary skill for a successful and enjoyable experience for the exchange student as well as the host family.
While their journey is winding down all the young ladies worry at leaving their new homes, new friends and new families.
“So now I am so close to people and my family,” said Filippa, “I am really sad to think about leaving, it’s my everyday life and in a couple months I’m just gone,” she said sadly.
When she returns home Filippa plans to begin studying some form of counseling, “I want to do something with people, help people, and use my English.”
Ida will continue practicing her piano at home and travel a bit more.
Tabea, fluent in both English and German, as well as schooled in Spanish, will be taking Latin when she returns home with hopes to “become a translator.”