‘I get to say I lived in Hawaii’

LIHUE — Celina Nabaa hopes studying abroad on Kauai will help her improve her English.

“English is a language you need everywhere — if you don’t speak the language of a country, the next best option is English,” she said.

Nabaa, who is from Geneva, Switzerland, is one of six international students enrolled at Island School this year. She is living with a family in Kalaheo and plans to spend a year on the Garden Isle.

A benefit to the program is giving Kauai students a broader scope of the world, said Sean Magoun, admissions director for Island School.

“What’s easy for Americans is that they have a limited view of the world around them,” he said. “Hopefully the international students will educate or re-educate our students about their country and their customs.”

Peggy Ellenburg, one of the founders of Island School, said the program gives students a wider friend base.

“We’re pretty isolated on Kauai, and where else will someone meet a person from Geneva,” she said. “Now, students will have a friend in Geneva who they can visit.”

Noel Witaseck, from Germany, plans to spend a year at Island School.

The high school junior said he wanted to live on Kauai to experience a different culture.

“It’s interesting because there’s a lot of variety,” he said. “It’s not just America. There’s a lot of people from Asia and the Pacific Rim.”

Witaseck, who is from Postdam, Germany, said he experienced slight culture shock after landing on the tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.

“It was a shock, not because it’s an island, but because it’s so rural,” he said. “My city borders Berlin, so it’s a big town.”

Witaseck, who also lives in Kalaheo, said he wanted to participate in a study abroad program because he wanted to build experiences for himself.

“It builds character, going abroad,” he said.

Mila Dormeir, a sophomore student from Bavaria, Germany, agreed.

“You do things on your own, and you can’t rely on your parents,” she said.

Dormeir, who was placed at Island School with the International Hospitality Center, a Honolulu-based organization that provides homestays and English language study training for international students, said all she knew about Hawaii was there is good weather and hula dancing.

“No one goes to Hawaii to study abroad,” she said. “Most people stay on the U.S. Mainland. I get to say I lived in Hawaii.”

She plans on staying on Kauai for a year, and is currently living with a host family in Kilauea.

Dormeir, along with Nabaa and Paula Kramer, also from Germany, are taking hula lessons with the school’s hula halau.

“I’m in Hawaii, so I had to try it,” she said.

The girls said the first class was scary because everyone else in the class already knew the steps.

While the students are taking a full course load at Island School, not every class will be transferable in their hometown school.

Witaseck said he will have to repeat eleventh grade when he returns to Postdam.

“But it’s worth it—you learn different things, going to different schools,” he said.

Secrets, Lumahai, Hideaway and the Sheraton beaches are among some of the beaches popular among the international students.

“The Sheraton Beach was the first beach I ever went to,” Dormeir said. “It never rains there, and there’s not so many tourists.”

David Janshen, a sophomore from western Germany, said he likes going to Queen’s Bath, Hanalei Bay and Polihale.

A perk of studying abroad is meeting friends from a different part of the world, Janshen said.

“You make friends, and get to travel to see them, or they travel to see you,” he said.

Island School has been hosting international students for 17 years.

“We’ve always had at least one student every year,” he said. “But this is by far the most students we’ve had.”

Magoun, who heads the international student program at Island School, said a big part of the job is making sure host families and international students will get along.

“We work diligently to make sure families are compatible,” he said. “We try to match students’ interest with the interests of the families.”

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