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A warm welcome

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Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:04 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Victor O'Brien

Killeen Daily Herald

"It's very flat and big," said Kwon Soon Hyeon, moments after he landed in Killeen.

Three male and three female high school exchange students from Osan, South Korea, were welcomed by local high school students and their families with balloons and signs at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport on Saturday as part of the Killeen Sister City Exchange Program.

After the Korean students disembarked the plane, their eyes darted to the open spaces around the airport.

"Coming to America is very surprising," Kim Tae In said.

Song Na Young compared Killeen's landscape to a countryside.

"Korea is very dense and crowded, but it is the opposite here," she said. "It is a very clean city and wide."

Hyeon said he was surprised by more than the landscape.

"Texas is warm," he said.

Christian Erichsen, a Killeen High School student, who will host Hyeon, said the first thing Hyeon did when he arrived in the airport terminal was take off his coat and sweater he wore in anticipation of winter weather.

After adjusting to the temperature, Erichsen said the next challenge was communicating.

"Sometimes, it's a bit difficult to get the ideas across," he said. "Patience is the key."

Zachary Sibberson, also of KHS, said communicating was easier than expected thanks to a translator in his father's cell phone. However, he said he is unsure how it will go without the translator.

Young's host, Gloria Lee, of Ellison High School, said she learned to speak Korean from her mother, but would try to avoid it.

"I am trying not to – to give her the real experience of a foreign exchange student," she said.

Nervousness was a common feelings among the six local and six Korean students.

"I'm nervous because I haven't done this before," said Josh Ysasi of KHS, who will host Gwon Gang An, 17.

"He's nervous to be in a country he hasn't been before," Ysasi said.

The same day Ysasi found out he was accepted into the program, he said he went home and found Osan using the Web site Google Earth.

The Korean students were accompanied by two Osan City delegates. After the students and families left the airport, their first taste of cuisine in America was a familiar taste. They ate at Buffet Palace, which serves Chinese, Japanese and Korean food.

Hyeon said the restaurant reminded him of food at home.

"It's kimchi and it's rice," he said.

During their stay in the United States, the Korean student are scheduled to visit Austin, Fort Hood, Dallas, Round Rock, San Marcos and will attend school at local schools.

This is the third year in a row the Killeen Sister City Exchange Program has brought Korean students to Killeen. A total of six students from Ellison, Harker Heights and Killeen high schools will be hosts to the six Korean students.

The students will stay with their host families for three weeks until March 1. Then in June, the six local students will travel to Korea for three weeks.

"The experience our students will have living with a person of another culture with limited English is challenging, fun and enlightening," said Lisa Humphreys, president of Killeen Sister City Inc.

The six local students, three boys and three girls, were selected by KISD in January after they applied in December.

"The students that were selected are top-notch," Humphreys said. "It was a difficult choice since all the students who applied were extremely qualified."

Contact Victor O'Brien at vobrien@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7468

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