The Right Fit

Korean exchange student feels at home at Haas Hall Fayetteville


News Editor 

Jeong Ho Jang, more commonly known as Xavier Holmes, has brought new life to a Haas Hall Academy family through the Rotary Youth Exchange program and has made a vibrant addition to the school community. The idea came from Samantha Giudice, a Haas Hall scholar currently studying in Taiwan, who needed host families at Haas Hall so that she could enroll in the program. 

Junior Miriam Holmes mentioned the offer to her mom expecting a hard no but was pleasantly surprised when her mom was excited by the idea of taking in a student. Her mom had grown up with exchange students in her own home in high school, and with the absence of Miriam’s older sister at college, she was intrigued with the idea of a new face in the house. 

One other family was lined up to take in a foreign exchange student, but after finding out the scholar would be a boy rather than the expected girl, they backed down, leaving the Holmes family to choose one of two possible scholars to stay with them. Together, they agreed on Xavier, a boy from Siheung-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. 

Xavier Holmes arrived in the U.S. on the Sunday after the first full week of school this year, making his debut in the States. His views of the U.S. were changed even within the first night here, and mostly for the better. According to both Xavier Holmes and Miriam Holmes, the first night was incredibly awkward but ultimately rewarding. Over the past few months, Xavier Holmes has had an extremely positive impact on the Holmes family. 

“Xavier has been really good for my dad especially,” Miriam Holmes said. “My dad only has daughters and no sons, so it’s been really good for him to enjoy more father-son activities with Xavier. He wouldn’t have ever had that opportunity if Xavier hadn’t come to live with us.”

Xavier Holmes is the only child of his real family in South Korea but found it relatively easy to leave his delivery-man father and entrepreneur mother. This is partially because of the great reception he has had from the Holmes family, something he was slightly worried about before arriving. 

“They are so nice,” Xavier Holmes said. “My father is very caring for me and my mom talks to me and asks a lot about school,” referring to his host family.

Since his arrival in the U.S., Xavier Holmes has already made many memories with his family and enjoyed experiences he couldn’t in his hometown in South Korea.

“We saw the stars in Colorado. I had never seen more than two before,” Xavier Holmes said. “Back in South Korea there is a lot of pollution and city lights that block the sky, but in Colorado there was lots of snow and the sky was clear.”

Miriam Holmes said that she introduced him to his favorite American things: movie theaters and burgers, specifically the Sonic Super Bacon Cheeseburger, things he was never introduced to in South Korea. 

Xavier Holmes chose his American name on his third day at Haas Hall with the help of Miriam and junior Lillian Taylor. An exchange student from the U.S. who had been at his school in South Korea had given him the name Edward, but he wanted something different that started with J, X, Q or Z. Taylor began reading a list of names with these letters and he lit up when he heard the name Xavier, so he took it as his own and added Holmes as his last name later that night, after his host family. 

While Xavier Holmes is fairly proficient with the English language, he has had his troubles with slang and abbreviations that he wasn’t introduced to in South Korea. 

“One night I stayed up with Xavier teaching him all the slang abbreviations mostly used for texting, and he was completely lost with any possible answers,” Miriam Holmes said. “He thought that ‘LOL’ stood for ‘League of Legends’ and ‘IDK’ stood for ‘Ikea Demonstration Knife.’ It was so random and made absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it was hilarious.”

Xavier Holmes has made several friends at Haas Hall and at New Heights, where he attends church with his host family. He is also in a small church group with several other Haas Hall scholars, including senior Warner Fields.

“At first we didn’t realize that he understood limited English so he got confused, but we’ve learned how to make things easy for him to understand which has been interesting,” Fields said. “He’s coming with us to Kansas City, and overall we’ve been trying to make him feel welcome at Haas and America; showing him what it’s like to be a typical American teenager.”

Xavier Holmes is glad to be at Haas Hall, especially opposed to his school in South Korea, where he was at school from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday. He is proud to be a Haas Hallian and hopes to make many more great memories throughout the year.

Junior Xavier Holmes, right, an exchange student from South Korea, holds a Haas Hall Academy flag as he poses with junior Miriam Holmes, a member of his host family.