Hessmans find rewards as foreign exchange student host by Heather Hessman Hosting a foreign exchange student is hardly any trouble, according to Wakonda's Hessman family. In fact, this is the second year they have opened their home to a foreign student. "We enjoyed the experience last year with Markus Kopelka from Germany, and we decided to do it again this year," said Ruth Hessman.
The International Cultural Exchange Services (ICES) contacted Wakonda School to see if anyone was interested in hosting an exchange student. The Hessmans jumped at the opportunity. The family has welcomed 17-year old Pavel Brusnicky from Slovakia for the 2002-2003 school year.
"We wanted to meet someone from another country so we could learn about different cultures. Also, it does not cost more to have a foreign exchange student; we just put another potato in the pot," said Mrs. Hessman.
The biggest challenge about having a foreign exchange student is communication. They speak with different phrases and meanings than those that familiar to Wakonda citizens.
The biggest problem Pavel has in adjusting to an American school is the difference in the extra-curricular activities, the drinking laws, and the younger driving age.
In Slovakia, extra-curricular programs are clubs that one can belong to outside of school. The drinking age is 18 years, but the driving age is also 18 years. The two countries differ in what is treated as strict and what is not.
Getting to America was not cheap or easy. Pavel had to contact the ICES in Slovakia and fill out a lot of forms, and pass writing and speaking tests.
He had to get on the plane on Aug. 15, and fly to Sioux Falls. He paid $3000 to the ICES for the experience and finding a family, $50 for America visas, and about $1000 for the flight tickets.
The Hessmans learn just as much from Pavil as he does from them. Introducing him to such traditions as Halloween and school dances is fun for the teenage girls in the Hessman family.
"It's like having another brother," said Heather Hessman, a junior at Wakonda High School. "Everyone should try hosting a foreign exchange student."