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Small North Arkansas School Gets an International Feel

LEAD HILL, AR  -  A small school in north Arkansas is going international, the Lead Hill School District has welcomed several foreign exchange students this year. The district, which only has 360 students total, has students from over eight countries who are here to learn a little English and a lot about the Ozarks.

"My first thought was I would help try to find host families, I never thought of actually being one, in fact I had thousands of reasons why not to do it, says Lead Hill teacher Dianna Halbmaier.

Halbmaier quickly realized wishing doesn't make it so. "I got told no a lot but for every no I just went out and contacted two more people," says Halbmaier.

But Halbmaier persisted. "I really just went out into the town and to the people that I know, my neighbors and my friends and I just told them that this was an excellent opportunity because there are hundreds of students out there that want to be a foreign exchange student and they get denied because there's not enough host families and once you get denied you don't really get an opportunity," says Halbmaier.

So she decided to host an exchange student. "Our student is Emil Ipsen, and he's from Denmark, and he's 16, and he's a junior, and he's fantastic," says Halbmaier.

"I wanted to experience a new culture and learn English," says Ipsen.

When Emil started his junior year he quickly learned he wasn't alone. "Brazilian, Germany, Spain, France, China, and Thailand," says Ipsen.

"I heard that there were exchange students but not so many so I was surprised," says German exchange student Thanh Truc Tran.

"I am from Hamburg," adds fellow German exchange student Lukas Frey.

Frey is one of Emil's new classmates. "This village has about 300 people, we have about a million, so that was the first let's say shock, but it's good, everyone knows everyone; very friendly," says Frey.

"We are giving them the real true perspective of what America is like and what Americans are like and what they say the most is that they are surprised at how friendly the Americans are because they've heard so many negative things about America," says Halbmaier.

They're teaching the American students some new things too. "It's actually pretty cool because you get to meet a lot of new people and new things about other places," says Lead Hill sophomore Matthew Cain.

A warm welcome to a new home, even if it's only temporary. "Everybody is sad to think about these kids having to leave because they've become such a big part of our community and our school and they've been so accepted," says Halbmaier.

Some of the students are also enjoying playing high school sports here in America, they have several of the students playing on the basketball and soccer teams there.

Dianna Halbmaier is a teacher there, there are two more faculty members and two school board members there who are hosting exchange students also.

The students hail from Brazil, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, China, and Thaliand.

Read the original article at KY3 News here.