This year, Ballard High School has hosted five foreign exchange students. They are Felix Rautland of Germany, Julia Mendes Conceicao of Brazil, Anna Krejcarova of the Czech Republic, Sabine Sonnemann of Germany and Esteban Daza of Bolivia.


These students sat down with Editor Marlys Barker for a question-and-answer session recently. Here are each of their answers to the questions asked.


Felix Rautland


1. Whose family are you staying with this year? “Carissa and Matt Lewis of Huxley.”


2. What was your first thought when you found out you’d be coming to Iowa? “I wanted to go to Texas or the Midwest, really any state but Michigan, because 80 percent of the exchange students go to Michigan. When I got the email (about Iowa), I didn’t even know where Iowa was, but I was excited because of the hot summers and cold winters. I’ve liked it also because it’s not so busy here.”


3. What have you enjoyed most about the Ballard Schools and the community? “Football! I liked the brotherhood of it. I hadn’t played it before, but I became the kicker, mostly on JV. But they put me in (varsity) at homecoming!” He said teammates called him, “The Toe.”


4. What activities have you been involved with at Ballard High School? “Football,” as already stated. “Also, weightlifting after school, trapshooting and I tried basketball for a short time. Also, I got to go to the RRC Art Show and got an honorable award in photography.”


5. What has been your favorite thing at the high school this year? “Money Sense,” a class. “You learn something for life … it’s something you need.”


6. What is your favorite food you’ve had while in the U.S.? “Barbecued ribs in Memphis, Tenn. And, I like free refills (on soft drinks), because we don’t have that in Germany.”


7. What is the best place in the U.S. that you’ve had a chance to visit this year? “I liked the Swamps of Louisiana and driving there with my host family from Iowa. It was great seeing the alligators; we fed them.”


8. What does your future hold and how will this experience help you? “I want to become a pilot. I think this experience in the United States will give me an advantage in life when I’m applying for jobs. It’s easier now to talk to people I don’t know.”


Julia Mendes Conceicao


1. Whose family are you staying with this year? “Carolyn and Ken Mai of Huxley.”


2. What was your first thought when you found out you’d be coming to Iowa? “I thought it was kind of boring … because it’s small. I come from a big city.”


3. What have you enjoyed most about the Ballard Schools and the community? “The school is really cool… We have different classes. I like art and you can do sports. It’s different than home because even though we have handball at school, sports aren’t organized like they are here.”


4. What activities have you been involved with at Ballard High School? “I did the RRC Art Show and won second place in photography. I am doing soccer, and I like it.”


5. What has been your favorite thing at the high school this year? “Prom! It was like in the movies. We go to the grand march, then hang out with friends, then we did pictures and then go to the dance.” She said the after prom was fun, too.


6. What is your favorite food you’ve had while in the U.S.? “Waffles” (said her host mom is great at making them)


7. What is the best place in the U.S. that you’ve had a chance to visit this year? “Mall of America… It’s huge!”


8. What does your future hold and how will this experience help you? “I think I’m more mature now than when I arrived here. I’m caring more about my family (back home) now … because I am away from them. Everything here for me is like being in a movie. I think this experience will help me get a job. I want to become a doctor.”


Anna Krejcarova


1. Whose family are you staying with this year? “Mike and Seana Godbold of Huxley.”


2. What was your first thought when you found out you’d be coming to Iowa? “Is it even in the U.S.? I had no idea where Iowa was and I had been looking at a map, but didn’t remember seeing it on the map. Of course, you want California or something, but I had been there (to California) before, so I was glad it was something different, and now… I like the Midwest.”


3. What have you enjoyed most about the Ballard Schools and the community? “I like the school, it’s completely different from the school back home. We are focused on all school (back home). I like all the different activities here and all the people.”


4. What activities have you been involved with at Ballard High School? “Volleyball, the play, basketball, the musical, and now tennis, which is amazing.”


5. What has been your favorite thing at the high school this year? “I liked the prom. I liked that it was fun and different from the formal (dances) back home. This was more easy-going and after-prom was fun. I like the way they decorated the school for it. And then I love tennis and senior night … I love having a team and playing with the girls. All the girls are so sweet.”


6. What is your favorite food you’ve had while in the U.S.? “Burgers, either Dublin Bay’s or homemade.”


7. What is the best place in the U.S. that you’ve had a chance to visit this year? “Colorado, by Denver. We went to Colorado Springs and I liked the Garden of the Gods … it was like you’re in Arizona… but there are mountains. It was really cool.”


8. What does your future hold and how will this experience help you? “This experience definitely helped me improve in English and I made a lot of new friends. I grew up a little. Now, I can speak to people I don’t know… I’m not as shy as I was. I want to pursue something in the medical field.”


Sabine Sonnemann


1. Whose family are you staying with this year? “Kristy and Ryan Miller of Huxley.”


2. What was your first thought when you found out you’d be coming to Iowa? “What is that?” She laughed. “I was really excited … I didn’t care where it was …” Now that she’s been here, she said the people are “nice and amazing.”


3. What have you enjoyed most about the Ballard Schools and the community? “Everybody is nice. In Germany, everybody’s in a rush. Here, everybody is trying to help you … The most important thing for us (back home) is education. Our focus is on studying. Here, sports and community with other people are great. I really like that.”


4. What activities have you been involved with at Ballard High School? “Volleyball, the play, cheerleading for basketball, musical, tennis.”


5. What has been your favorite thing at the high school this year? “I loved cheerleading, it was amazing. I also like service and helping. Anna (Krejcarova) and I go two times a week to help kids with disabilities (in their classroom). We’ve helped with math, PE and now cooking.” Anna Krejcarova agreed that this has been one of her favorite things too. Both girls say the kids are always so excited to see them and they just love the kids.


6. What is your favorite food you’ve had while in the U.S.? “French toast” (her host mom is great at making it)


7. What is the best place in the U.S. that you’ve had a chance to visit this year? “Dallas, Texas. My host family has relatives there and I liked the downtown of the city.”


8. What does your future hold and how will this experience help you? “I want to go to college and do management. In management, I could go to different countries and when my English is good, that will help me. I’ve enjoyed meeting people. It really improved me to hang out with more people.”


Esteban Daza


1. Whose family are you staying with this year? “Kristine and Charlie Purcell of Huxley.”


2. What was your first thought when you found out you’d be coming to Iowa? “My first thought was it was exciting, because like I was going to the U.S. I didn’t know where Iowa was, but I didn’t care… just wanted to come to the U.S.” Now that he’s been here, “Iowa is very impressive,” he said. He finds that a small town is like “experiencing the other side of life.”


3. What have you enjoyed most about the Ballard Schools and the community? “I enjoy the people, the culture… People are very friendly. Everybody’s so nice. Everybody says ‘hi’ when they are walking along the street.” He said at first, he’d turn around to see who they were talking to, but it was him. “I liked that I can go walking in the city (of Huxley),” and because it’s so safe, he said, he gets home and is like, “whoa … I’m still alive.”


4. What activities have you been involved with at Ballard High School? “Basketball, the play, the musical, individual speech (got to state in two categories), large group speech (also went to state), tennis, track, another play recently, engineering club and chess club.” He was champion of chess club the first quarter. The other exchange students also shared for him that he was Prom King.


5. What has been your favorite thing at the high school this year? “Drama was my favorite thing, and how much I am learning from America.” His fellow exchange students chime in that his English has improved dramatically from when he arrived.


6. What is your favorite food you’ve had while in the U.S.? “Walking taco, It’s something easy and delicious. These will be things I can do in college. Get me my Doritos and meat and there you go.”


7. What is the best place in the U.S. that you’ve had a chance to visit this year? “San Antonio, Texas, and the River Walk. It was great to hear all the history and then to feel like you’re in a big city, but also like very close with my host family. It was very special. And the weather (over spring break) was amazing.”


8. What does your future hold and how will this experience help you? “I’m going into chemical engineering.” In fact, he shared, he is applying to schools in the United States. “This experience teaches me a lot… to speak English … to value my family … the things that I have. Here you can get some things easy. Back home you can’t … and this has taught me how I want to be the rest of my life. Every experience tells you … that you don’t know who will be in your life. I have made friends I will never forget.”