The New Lebanon Central School District welcomed two international students into the Jr/Sr High School community for the 2015-16 school year. Mari Lauritzen from Norway and Francisca (Franci) Wolf from Germany.
Mari lives with Scott and April Larabee, and their daughter Stacey, also a senior at the high school. Mr. Larabee said they became interested in hosting when Stacey talked about the exchange students last year, and how it would be fun for their family to host and learn about a different culture.
Mari said she had never been outside of Europe and came to the United States to learn more about a new culture and language. “A friend of my sister had recently completed an exchange program and recommended that I do it.”
According to Mari, school is much more formal here. “In Norway, we refer to the teacher by first name; here we have to use Mr., Ms., and we have to sign-in and out of school.”
She is taking a full schedule in order to graduate in June as a senior, and participated in volleyball, swimming, and is considering playing on the softball team in the spring. Mari said in Norway, competitive sporting events between schools is rare. Athletics is usually done outside of school by belonging to a sports club.
“It is interesting to hear Mari talk about Norway, and to see the similarities between our cultures, as well as the differences,” said Mr. Larabee. “Our family jokes around a lot, and Mari joins right in. We are very happy that we decided to have Mari join our family for the year!”
Meet Francisca (Franci)
Franci lives with Superintendent Leslie Whitcomb and since arriving in the United States has visited New York City, Vermont and hopes to visit Boston.
In addition to wanting to experience a different culture and lifestyle, Franci felt the exchange program could help her overcome her shyness. She has enjoyed making new friends, shopping, cooking and just hanging out at other students’ houses.
According to Ms. Whitcomb, Franci is both shy and bold. “Just the fact that she is spending her junior year away from her family and language is proof of her boldness. I know that she is still a little shy about initiating invitations, that’s the part where getting to know a culture comes into play.”
Ms. Whitcomb had been interested in hosting a student since New Lebanon began its International Student program and thought it would be a fun experience to have a teenager in her home again.
“Our international students have consistently brought new awareness to students and I was hoping for that experience for myself, as well. I have asked Franci tons of questions about education in Germany, and I have also learned to look at so many of the little things that I do in a more analytical way.”
Franci is taking English 11, Principles of Engineering, Physics, Graphic Communications, and participated in volleyball, swimming, choir, and food club. According to Franci, teachers here are very caring and stay after school to help.
Franci plans to study forensic science or chemistry in college in Europe.
“There’s much that I admire in Franci. First, the boldness that brought her to New Lebanon. I also admire her devotion to her studies and her disciplined nature. Finally, I admire how open she is to new experiences and to letting me know how her experience here is progressing,” said Ms. Whitcomb.
This is the fourth year of New Lebanon’s International Student Program. The district partners with Educatius International to assist in identifying students who would be appropriate for the program. The students are responsible for paying the district tuition and there is a stipend to host families.
New Lebanon Jr/Sr High School Principal Matthew Klafehn and Kristin Carson, the school’s international coordinator and library assistant, work with Educatius to coordinate the students’ placement and arrival.