Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on exchange students enrolled in Walker County Schools.
DORA — Eight exchange students are calling Walker County home for the next few months, including Ami Kasai, a native of Japan.
Kasai is enrolled at Dora High School — the same school her sister, who was also an exchange student, once attended.
"I really wanted to come, and I chose the same host family," Kasai said.
In Japan, Kasai said she has to wear uniforms to school and has a much longer school day, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If she participates in club activities, Kasai can be at school until 6:30 each evening.
She is also an active swimmer back home.
"Japanese school is not like here. In American high school, students have to move class to class, but in Japanese school, you have to stay in homeroom all day," she added.
Kasai plans to study international business after high school, but for now, she is enjoying her time in America and is making new friends.
"I think Alabama people are very kind and when I go somewhere, everyone says 'hello' and 'how are you?' It's not like Japan," she said. "People are very kind."
Curry High hosts exchange student
CURRY — Annabel Gelder of the Netherlands is spending 10 months in the United States and is settling into her junior year at Curry High School.
Gelder said in the span of one week she was notified of receiving placement with a host family and then flew from the Netherlands to New York City where she met other exchange students.
"After that, you go on your own plane, to your own place, and do it all by yourself," Gelder said. "That's one of the points of being an exchange student is to do more things by yourself."
Outside of getting used to a new learning environment, Gelder said one of the biggest adjustments has been adapting to different eating habits in America.
"We normally eat vegetables, meat, and potatoes (in the Netherlands). There's always some vegetable in there," she said. "We only have Burger King, McDonald's and KFC as fast food in the whole country, so it's not like everywhere there's a fast food place. We eat a lot of home cooking."
Her take on southern food? "I like it but I'm not used to it," she said.
Gelder said she has been a bit homesick but has made many friends at Curry.
"The people are so nice to me, everybody," she said. "I don't know how other schools are. I don't know how other cities or towns are, but I'm happy with what I have right now."
Once Gelder completes high school, she aspires to possibly be an architect.
At the request of Gelder's host family, a photo of her will not be published in the Daily Mountain Eagle.