When Kieran Lynch, 18, of Dunfermline, Scotland, and Eoghann Stephens, 18, of Portsmouth, England sat in London’s Heathrow airport, they only knew two things about each other: they were about to embark into a year-long foreign exchange program somewhere in the United States, and they both had a love for basketball.
Now, while their love for basketball has remained constant, after both being placed at Albion High School, Lynch and Stephens’ friendship has grown.
“Especially because we’re from similar backgrounds, we just get along really well and have some good fun,” Lynch said.
They are just two of the 14 exchange students that make up nearly 4 percent of Albion High School’s student body.
Vivian Davis, senior counselor at Albion High School, feels very fortunate to have so many in attendance.
“We have community people who are willing to take the students in, and we have a welcoming school district who likes to have them come because it adds to the diversity of learning,” Davis said. “It’s wonderful to host them.”
Davis points to “World Religions” as a class that has especially benefited from foreign students’ presence.
“Several exchange students take the class and have the opportunity to talk about their religious practices and customs,” Davis said. “And the class is always packed because (Albion) students know that they will be speaking.”
Lynch and Stephens are also on the Wildcat’s soccer and basketball teams. While both are serious about basketball in their futures – Lynch hopes to further his hometown’s high school team, and Stephens hopes to play at Albion College next year. Some community members cite exchange students as a driving force behind Albion High’s soccer team.
Bill Hayes, Albion emeriti and Lynch’s Albion host father, claims that it has become something of a tradition for soccer parents to host international students.
“Because it’s a little town, and soccer isn’t really considered a first-class sport – at the high school, the big ones are football and basketball – we often don’t get enough local kids to field a team,” Hayes said. “But when families host exchange students, we can field a team with players from all over the world.”
Aside from helping to field a soccer team, athletics are a good way for international students to get comfortable in Albion.
“Most of the students who come to Albion are athletic in one way or another,” Davis said. “Being on a team helps them to assimilate – the basketball players make friends with basketball players, the football with football, and so on.”
Lynch agrees. “Sports really help to make friends. You’re with them everyday at school and then practicing. It’s a good thing.”
Outside of school, while, according to Lynch, “there’s obviously not that much to do in (the city of) Albion,” both Lynch and Stephens know how to have a good time.
“We chill out, go to each others’ houses, go to Jackson and Marshall, go to (Albion College) basketball games,” Stephens said. “But we can’t drive, so we’re kind of restricted.”
According to Lewis Cardenas, the associate director for international student recruitment at Albion College, about one to two foreign exchange students make the transition from Albion High School to Albion College each year.