Sep 12, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterWhen they first arrived in Fremont County, this year's group of foreign exchange students said they knew they were in for a unique experience. From the mountains to the dining establishments, the students said their new home for the year looks a lot different from their countries of origin.
"There are rocks everywhere," said Holly McKee, of New Zealand.
Annabelle Pabst, of Germany, agreed, adding that she was awed by the open spaces that greeted her when she stepped off the plane in Riverton.
"I'm from a big city," Pabst said.
Compared to her home in Switzerland, Mirjam Blatter called Wyoming "so flat" her first week in the state. Her host mom, Joan Kulow, of Lander, reminded Blatter that smoke obscured any mountain views Blatter would have seen.
Many of the other foreign exchange students had yet to glimpse the Wind River Mountains their first week because of the smoke from wildfires. But Julius Heimann, of Germany, said he was able to sneak a look at the range during early morning football practices. For him, the most noticeable difference about Wyoming compared to Germany is the size of the motor vehicles, particularly "all of the pickup trucks."
"And all of the fast food," he said.
Heimann will spend his year in Riverton with the McCormick family, a perfect match for the German native interested in American football.
"My husband is a coach," Melissa McCormick said during an orientation meeting Aug. 21 in Riverton. "It's a good situation."
McCormick's son Zack, 11, also has been pleased with the presence of his temporary big brother.
"He's better than Bergen," Zack said, comparing Heimann to the McCormicks' 5-year-old son.
Other host-siblings said they were happy to welcome a foreign exchange student into their homes as well. Thirteen-year-old Mackenzi Kellner said she likes having her new older brother, Axel Arvidsson, of Sweden, to play with instead of her younger brother Kaden, 11. And high schooler Devon Burrell, who will spend the year with Pabst at aunt Becky Burrell's house, said she has been wanting a sister.
"She's cool," Devon said of Pabst, who visited the Wyoming State Fair with the Burrells and was brave enough to ride a mechanical bull for the first time.
Therese Fowler, of Lander, said her foreign exchange student, McKee, has also been "willing to jump right in."
Student organizer Stacy Peranteaux said the students must also be pretty brave to start school in a foreign country, though she pointed out that most of them are fluent in English. Seven of the students will go to RHS, while McKee and Blatter will attend Lander High School.
All of the foreign exchange students will attend school as seniors. The group includes McKee, Pabst, Blatter, Heimann and Arvidsson as well as Kimberley Wouters, of Spain, Merel Snyders, of Holland, Jannik Sandhofen, of Germany and Astrid Cornelis, of Holland.
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