Skip to main content

Oklahoma Family Explains Benefits of Hosting Exchange Student

In Europe, America is a land that everyone has heard about and many wish to visit. But many have only experienced it through movies.

Two weeks before the start of school, junior Flora Halbert was able to experience America outside of films when she arrived from Germany as a foreign exchange student at Bismarck High School.

"I thought that Germany - or living there - would be boring," Halbert said. "So I thought if I tried moving out of there, it would be a bit more exciting."

Back in Germany, Halbert started taking English classes in school in fourth grade, but in fifth grade, studying for her became serious as there were primary schools where only English was spoken. Six years later, Halbert would put her ability to speak English to the test when she proposed to her parents the idea of becoming a student in another country for one year.

"They agreed with me because they lived in East Germany during the Soviet Union rule," Halbert said. "So they never had the chance to travel and wanted me to have the chance. I've wanted to go there just for the ‘team spirit' and to be part of a true American family"

Interested in history and culture, Halbert was worried when she learned she would be living, almost ironically, in a town named Bismarck. Halbert moved to her temporary home under the care of her host parents, Jennifer and Mark Arkseros.

"We saw her profile and we picked her out of about 10 students based on her interests and how she'd fit in, and so far she seems like a perfect fit," Jennifer Arkseros said.

Halbert marks the Arkseros family's first time of being a host family after getting the idea from a neighbor who had hosted students. Small preparations had to be made for Halbert's arrival including preparing their spare bedroom and setting up classes for the start of the school year. From there it was wait for Halbert's arrival, which was celebrated by a feast at a restaurant.

"I knew a family who has done it twice before," Jennifer Arkseros said. "We had an extra bedroom, so I looked into some info and we decided to do it."

They have made a point to show areas of North Dakota's culture to Halbert with trips to the Capitol and the Heritage Center and more parts of the country will be explored in the future. The family has already taken a trip to Yellowstone and will go to Mount Rushmore and Denver soon.

"It (Yellowstone) is one of the first things I learned about America," Halbert said. "They (Jennifer and Mark Arkseros) are really nice and want to show me a lot of things."

Halbert has adapted to her change of society, but feels she has a long way to go before having a firm grasp of the English language, constantly taking in new words and phrases and repeating them to herself each day. She writes daily emails to her friends and family, wants to show that she really is in America, and what kind of a place it is to be in.

"I have to learn a lot, that's all I can say," Halbert said.

At home she takes part in activities such as cooking with Jennifer Arkseros, teaching the family various words in German and taking their pet dog on walks - experiencing moments in the different setting she's wished for.

"I think I couldn't have chosen a better student to live with us," Jennifer Arkseros said. "She's polite, she's so helpful. She's like the daughter I've never had."

To read the original article, click here.