Life as a Foreign Exchange Student at Air Academy


Joel Rapp (10), a foreign exchange student at Air Academy, going up for a header in the varsity soccer game against Pine Creek.

Moving to a new high school can be a difficult thing to do, especially when you move to a new high school in a completely different country. This is the case for a handful of students at Air Academy High School. Every year a group of foreign exchange students come from across the world to experience life in America here at Air Academy.

The foreign exchange program at Air Academy is run by Eric Beers, the college and career counselor, who has worked here and run the program for the past 11 years.

He took over the program when he came here because he loves to travel to other countries and learn about the countries as well as their cultures. He assists the new students by helping them plan their schedules and he matches them with another foreign exchange student or an upperclassman that would be able to help the new students navigate the school.

Not only does he believe that the program is a huge help for the students, but it benefits the school as well. According to Beers, though, “The benefits of the program are definitely bigger for us rather than the foreign exchange students.”

He thinks that students who go to Air Academy, that might not have lived outside Colorado, are able to learn so much about different cultures and how the rest of the world lives.

Joel Rapp is a foreign exchange student from Steinen, Germany, a small village near the border of France and Switzerland. There, he had been learning English since 5th grade, so he has been studying for about 6 years and is now fluent. Though he is enjoying his time here so far, he misses his family and friends that he had to leave behind during the move. He decided to make the jump across the pond because he really wanted to experience American culture and to perfect his English. To help adjust and really immerse in the culture, he joined the soccer team at Air Academy and is currently on the varsity team that is aiming for a 3-year straight state championship record.

When asked about the biggest change in America he said, “Your food is very unhealthy and doesn’t taste good honestly and the people here are friendlier, funnier, and more open minded.”

He currently is paired with another foreign exchange student Alex Baró Fernández. Alex is from Barcelona, Spain and he has been learning English for 9 years. He joined the tennis team at Air Academy to help adjust and to have fun. He came here to improve his English, learn the culture, and just to live the experience. He does sometimes miss home though, especially the good, non-fast food meals, and the typical Spanish dishes that are hard to find here in Colorado Springs.

According to him, his routine was the hardest to change as he said, “I have to wake up 45 minutes earlier and I finish school two hours earlier than in Spain.”

Overall, both Joel and Alex are adjusting to life in America just fine and are already absorbing parts of the culture that they are here to experience. Though they have only been at Air Academy for close to two months, they are both fitting in and they are involved in many activities in this new, sometimes strange place before they return to their home countries in the summer.