DIXFIELD — There’s just so much space between houses and so many cars that the Dixfield area doesn’t look at all like a city.

That was Joshua Mostofizaden’s first impression when he arrived in the area as one of five foreign exchange students spending a year at Dirigo High School.

Josh, 15, a junior at DHS, is from Essen, Germany.

“There’s more trees than back home, and the cars are much bigger,” he said.

And as much as he likes spending the year living with his host, Susan Olsen of Mexico, he misses his sausages.

“They’ve already planned a barbecue for me with sausages when I get back,” he said.“The bread is different, but the stores make it easy to shop.”

Also from Germany is 16-year-old Nina Radzwill, 16, of Leverkusen.

“The school is a lot different, too. There are A and B days, and the schedule is for the whole week. We have more classes at home, and the classes are easier here.”

Nina’s hosts are Jessica and Daniel Robinson.

The two European exchange students are joined by Panisara “Plae”Hataiyuth, 15, and Warunyoo “Earth” Boonkrajong, 16, both of Thailand, and Melissa Velaquez of Mexico.

Earth, as he prefers to be called, liked what he saw when he left the airport in Portland. “There were lots of trees, and the people are nice,” he said.

His fellow countrywoman, Plae, agreed.

“I prefer Los Angeles,” she said, “because it’s a city, but the people here are friendly, and they keep talking.”

Melissa wasn’t available for the interview because she was playing soccer on the Dirigo team, a sport that is very popular in most of the world. Melissa and Plae are living with Charity and Shawn Webster of Dixfield for the school year.

Josh likes that he can choose his classes at Dirigo and that the classes are smaller here than at home.

He is, however, the only boy at the high school who carries a satchel for his books rather than using a backpack. He said backpacks are used just for camping and hiking back home.

Earth is pleased that he could let his dark hair grow while living in the United States. At home, it must be cut short. And Plae likes that she can wear everyday clothes rather than a uniform.

“And the subjects are easier,” she said.

While Dirigo’s exchange students are living at their host homes, they often get together with other foreign exchange students from nearby high schools, something that Nina is really happy about.

“When I’m grown up, I’ll know people from different countries to visit,” she said.

That may come in handy after she graduates from college. She hopes to major in journalism, where she hopes to combine her love of writing with traveling.

All five exchange students are involved in their host school extracurricular activities. Most play soccer, like they do back home, but most also want to try playing baseball, basketball or tennis. Nina and Plae are also on the cheering squad, something they don’t get a chance to do in their home countries.

Nina said it’s a dream come true to come to the United States.

“This American feeling is exciting, And the family is so nice,” she said.


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