Buckfield exchange students enjoy Maine outdoor life

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BUCKFIELD — Buckfield Junior-Senior High School’s two foreign exchange students said they are enjoying the food and skiing, but don’t have as much freedom to travel here because they live in the country.

Panta “Way Way” Buttirachai from Thailand and Nina Keifer from Germany are members of the senior class, but will be juniors when they return home.

Way Way, 16, is staying with Sarah and Jason Berry of Turner. Nina, 15, is hosted by Sarah and John Bernard of Buckfield.

One of the differences here compared to their homeland is transportation. Both said they have more independence at home because there is public transportation.

“What I’m used to in Germany … is more independence,” Nina said. “(At home) I can move around on my own. Here the next town is farther away, and you always need somebody to drive you.”

Way Way, from Bangkok, said, “It’s more free for me (to go places) because here it’s country but Bangkok is a city and I can go anywhere by myself, kind of, because we have the bus to take and sometimes we don’t really need someone to drive.”

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She said she decided to be an exchange student “to learn a new culture.”

For Nina, it was her sister’s experience as an exchange student in Kansas City, Missouri, that interested her.

Part of their experience this winter has been joining their host families in weekend get-together with other exchange students and their hosts in the area.

“We pretty much like to hang out outside and go to places like Portland Headlight,” Way Way said.

Admitting it’s cold in Maine, she said she still likes the weather and the snow.

The girls have skied at Lost Valley in Auburn with a school group.

“I skied a long time ago so I forgot how to ski,” Way Way said. For Nina, skiing at Lost Valley was “more like just a little hill” because she has skied in countries such as Switzerland and Austria.

Another activity the girls are enjoying is art class at the high school.

“In Germany, we all have the same project in art class,” Nina said, but at Buckfield students can choose from a variety of projects.

“I like that we can do different things all the time, it’s not the same,” Nina said. She’s working on painting patterns. 

Both girls have also made pottery.

“My bowl was good, but when I make the pottery it’s hard to do so it came out weird,” Way Way said.

Nina said her bowl had to be repainted because a baking explosion caused some damage.

And both are also involved in music, Way Way playing the trombone in the school band and Nina singing in the chorus.

Earlier this fall, Way Way was a cheerleader and recently both girls tried out for softball. Neither of them has played softball before because “it doesn’t exist in both of our countries,” Nina said.

On the topic of food, both said they like American pizza and burgers.

In Germany, Nina said, she eats some pizza and burgers “but not as much” as in America.

Way Way loves Thai food, especially Pad Thai, but doesn’t get in Thailand.

“It’s so good,” she said. “At home I don’t really eat Thai food because my mom is Chinese so we cook Chinese food at home.”

As for plans after high school, Nina said she wants to study architecture and interior design, while Way Way said she doesn’t know what she wants to do yet.

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Buckfield Junior-Senior High School exchange students Nina Keifer from Germany, left, and Panta “Way Way” Buttirachai from Thailand pose at the school Tuesday. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)

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