Finding foreign friends

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Elena Kostner (11) is a foreign exchange student from Italy. She has been staying with Hannah Peters (11).

Mia Brann

Waking up and going to school somewhere completely foreign could be a dream or a nightmare, but for some, it is a reality. Elena Kostner (11) is here, staying with Hannah Peters (11) for ten months. Even though she has been speaking English for most of her life, she is looking forward to enhancing her fluency.

“I’m from Italy in the North, so all people can speak Italian, but I speak also German because we are very close to Austria. There is another little town with 10,000 people called Ladin. I know Italian, German and Ladin, and we learn also English,” Kostner said.

Where Kostner is from, the school system is very different, so Lake Central has been a big change for her.

“It’s a very big school. [In Italy,] we have a lot of schools with different subjects, [including] an art school and a language school. The schools have five to 800 students,” Kostner said.

Kostner has Peters, who is not new to being a host to a foreign exchange student, to help her overcome the language barrier.

“Five years ago or so, my dad made a joke about having another 16-year-old Swedish girl in the house, and we decided we would look into getting a foreign exchange student to live with us. We found the program and got our old foreign exchange student, Martha Kröger.That was in 2013-14, my eighth grade year. We took a break [after that] because my older sister graduated, and Martha was in school with her. We got Elena because she’s my age,” Peters said.

The students who apply to the program do not have a sure chance that they will be chosen by a host family, who look through the profiles of the students wanting to come to the U.S.

“We just get their name, age and where they live. Then, they write a paper explaining why they would want to come here, but we don’t get a picture or anything,” Peters said.

Kostner turned in her application last November to make sure she got a good family. She and Peters have been getting closer since they spend so much time doing marching band together. The Peters family is also looking forward to showing her some things that are only in America, including Prom this year.

“[The best thing about the foreign exchange program is that I can] meet a lot of new people, learn to speak fluent English, have a new experience and travel the world,” Kostner said.