RUMFORD — Eight foreign exchange students — all young men — are finding life in this mill town has some similarities, as well as differences, from their homelands in Europe, South America and Australia.

The students are living with local families while attending Mountain Valley High School.

Katriel Czerniak of Brazil said having a paper mill in town is nothing unusual to him, as his country is home to many of them. What is different, though, is the snow, he said.

“I didn’t expect the weather,” he said. “It’s the coldest in my life.”

But he’s happy to be here, he said.

“I want to study English and be more independent,” Czerniak said. To help with English and be more involved, he joined the school drama club and will perform in “Into the Woods.”

For Soenke “Sonic” Hanneken of Germany, spending a year in the United States provided him with an answer of what to do between his sophomore and junior years of high school. He is on the Alpine ski team, along with other exchange students.

Lukasz Bukowski of Poland said he was pleased with how friendly people are.

“Everyone is always open and can help with whatever you want,” he said. “I didn’t expect people to be so nice.”

“I always heard stories from friends about how good it was,” William Wagner of Denmark said.

One thing that surprised him was the distances between towns.

“It’s two hours to another (high school athletic) game,” he said.

Vladyslav Orlov of Ukraine said he decided to study abroad so he could try another educational system. He wants to attend college to study audio engineering, perhaps in the United States, he said.

Simon Do of Australia said he likes new experiences. He found there are differences between his culture and that in the United States. People in Australia swear a lot more than they do here, and the parties are smaller here, he said.

“Every day, there’s something new,” he said.

For Aleksi Pirttijoki of Finland, the opportunity to improve his English is also giving him more time to decide on his career path. He also agrees that people are very friendly.

Francesco Bolbara of Italy is also hoping to mature and “find my way” while in America, he said.


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