Three foreign exchange students are attending Haines High School this year.

Sophomore Marvin Steinmeister, 15, came from Hamburg, Germany, a city of around 2 million people. Steinmeister wanted to live anywhere in the U. S. and was chosen by his host family, Glen and Alison Jacobson.

Steinmeister said he likes everything about Haines. “It’s beautiful. There’s a great society here and I like the school.”

Homework was different in Germany, he said, and there were no electives.

His family includes his father, an engineer, his mother, who is training to be a homeopathic doctor, and an older brother.

He is running on the cross-country team this year, and he also enjoys hiking and basketball.

Junior Yael Paes, 17, is here from Namur, Belgium. Like Steinmeister, she was happy to go anywhere in the U.S., but was particularly happy to end up in Alaska. She is staying with Cheryl and Robin Stickler.

“School is easier here,” she said, and it includes lots of activities during class time that they don’t have in Belgium.

Paes enjoys sports, music and art. “I like everything,” she said.

Her father works in a hardware store and her mother in a grocery store. Paes has two brothers, age 20 and 26.

She said residents she met so far “are the best people I’ve ever met in my life.” They’ve offered her help and friendship.

Junior Haytham Mohamma, 16, comes from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. He’s being hosted by Ed and Yuko Hays. He said it was “very hard to get here from Gaza” but that he was excited to be in the U.S. “It doesn’t matter where I go, because it’s all America. Anywhere I go I will learn and have a new experience.”

Mohamma said he is taken with Alaska. “It is peaceful, independent. People are kind to each other and help each other, especially in Haines.” He’s also looking forward to the winter despite the cold. “I’m excited because I haven’t seen snow before.”

Mohamma, who enjoys chess, has helped start up a chess club at the school. He’s also interested in soccer and origami. He intends on making an origami piece for the school consisting of over 2,000 papers that he says should take him about a month to complete, he said.

His father works as a telecommunication engineer and his mother is a dentist. Mohamma has three sisters, ages 17, 12, and 10. His oldest sister is in college in Pennsylvania on a scholarship.

“I want to thank my host family, and thank my family in Gaza for supporting me,” Mohamma said.