CHASSELL - For Anders Clausen and Nicolas Ferro, being exchange students is as much learning about Americans as it is learning about the American education system.
Clausen, who is 16 and from Denmark, and Ferro, who is 17 and from Uruguay, started classes last week at Chassell High School. They got to the home of Naomi and Rick Tervo through an organization called Youth For Understanding based in Germany.
Clausen said this is his first time as an exchange student, but he comes to it naturally.
Nicolas Ferro, 17, center, and Anders Clausen, 16, right, play Uno with host Naomi Tervo in the Tervo home near Chassell. Ferro, who is from Uruguay, and Clausen, who is from Denmark, are exchange students through a Germany-based organization called Youth For Understanding. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Kurt Hauglie)
"It was actually my family who started Youth For Understanding in Denmark," he said.
However, Clausen said he had his own reason for becoming an exchange student.
"I wanted to experience something new," he said.
From what he's seen of the American school system so far, Clausen will get that experience.
"It's much more different than Danish school," he said.
Clausen, who is a sophomore this year, said he took a tour of the Chassell schools building, and not only are American schools laid out differently, there's another feature taken for granted here not present in his home country.
"We don't have lockers in Denmark," he said.
Ferro, who is from San Jose, Uruguay, and is a junior this year, said he learned about the YFU exchange program from German and Estonian students visiting Uruguay with the program, so he started thinking about doing the same thing many years ago.
"Since I was about 10, (I've been thinking about the program)," he said.
What he's experienced so far in Chassell hasn't changed his mind about coming to the United States, Ferro said.
"I think it's a really great experience," he said.
Ferro said he's been speaking English for about nine years, but what's taught in school in Uruguay is very basic.
"You have to go after school to learn better," he said.
He sometimes does have some communication problems using English, Ferro said.
"It's a bit difficult," he said.
Ferro said he'll be taking a full load of classes, including algebra II, United States history, shop, physics, robotics, and yes, Spanish, but not so much as a student.
"I'm going to help them," he said.
Ferro said he would like to go to college, but he hasn't decided what to major in, yet.
"I have no idea," he said. "I like numbers. I like languages."
Besides Spanish and English, Ferro said he also speaks Portuguese.
Clausen said he also either speaks or understands French, Swedish and Norwegian.
Both Clausen and Ferro said they learned a little bit about the United States from school and popular media, but being here is a better learning experience.
Naomi Tervo said this isn't the first time her family has hosted YFU students.
"We had two other exchange students," she said.
This is the first time the family has hosted two students at the same time, however, Tervo said.
She is the Copper Country-area representative for YFU, Tervo said, covering from Chassell to Calumet. She's been involved with the organization since 2006. However, she's not allowed to be the representative of students she hosts. That representative is in Republic.
Tervo said her family got involved with YFU because of a desire to experience other cultures.
"We love to travel," she said. "We love to learn about other people and other countries."
It's not just the students the family hosts who are getting a unique education, Tervo said.
"I learn just as much from them as I hope they learn from us," she said.
According to the organization's website, "YFU is one of the world's largest and most respected international educational exchange organizations. A network of over 50 independent national organizations worldwide, YFU representatives work together to advance learning across cultures. Within each country's culture, YFU organizations subscribe to and operate under a common set of principles and standards that aim to facilitate cooperation and harmony."
Tervo said YFU representatives are very helpful if there are any problems with the students.
"They do well by the kids," she said.
Tervo said she has three grown children, two of whom are married, and one who is home but attending Michigan Technological University, and she expects she'll continue as a host for exchange students.
"I really enjoy it," she said. "I enjoy the teenagers. Every year is different."
Clausen said he has no problems sharing a host family with a student from another country.
"So far it's been fun," he said.
To learn more about Youth For Understanding, go online to yfu.org, or contact the field director, Heather Clark in Traverse City at 231-933-8044.