Home Away From Home

Three foreign exchange students start the school year as they grow accustom to the new lifestyle, food and school system

Lexi Hart, Writer

All the way from Hamburg, Germany is one of the foreign exchange students, Julia Gross.

Even though she is only 16, she is enrolled as a senior, because of the way the school system works between Germany and America.

“This new school system is totally different from Germany, here you can take what you want,” Gross said.

She chose to come to America because she wanted a chance to improve her English, taste the food and lifestyle, experience the different school system and have the ability to choose her classes.

“We make an exchange year and I wanted to learn English.  New Zealand was a good choice too but it costs three times as much as America,” Gross said.

Overall, America is not too different to her than Germany, however it’s the little things that catch her eye.

“For example, we never put ice in our drinks.  Also, I’m allowed to drive when I’m 18, but I’m allowed to drink when I’m 16,” Gross said.

Another change is the food.  The American food is definitely a change in style, as she is not used to all the fast food and huge portions.

“Here the food is much more unhealthy, and the portions are just bigger,” Gross said.

Also, the living style is a lot different in America.  In America most families live in houses with lots of rooms and a few floors.  In Germany, they are used to smaller apartments for their living space.

“In Germany there are a lot of apartments, and here it’s just only houses.  Here I have my own bathroom. There are so many rooms,” Gross said.

She thinks our school is great and very supportive of our sports.  In Germany, they don’t have really any sport clubs where there are tryouts.  The school system is a big change.  Where she’s from they have a school that has multiple buildings, to house 1st through 12th graders.

It was important for Gross to get involved in such a big school.

“I wanted to make it on the volleyball team, but the problem is I’m a senior so I have to be on the varsity, and all the people on varsity have been playing much more volleyball,” Gross said.


She plans on auditioning for our drama play coming up and she also plays the viola in the orchestra.

She misses her family and being able to speak her native language.

From Bavaria, Germany is another one of the foreign exchange students, Valerie Eckart. Valerie will also be spending the year here before returning back to Germany.

Eckart has been to the United States before.  She went to Boston last year for four weeks, and that trip sparked her interest in coming back and going to school.

“The school system is different. We don’t have middle school,” Eckart said.

That is the reason why she wanted to come back to the U.S.  She really liked our school system, so she wanted to give it a try.

She mentioned that in Germany, students don’t get to choose their classes or electives.   But the difference that stood out was that our milk and juice cartons here are a lot bigger than in Germany.

“Your orange juice is much more bigger than in Germany. The plastic thing, I don’t know what to call it,” Eckart said.

With being many miles away from home, homesickness hasn’t been an issue at this time.

“At the moment not so much because everything is new, but I miss my dogs,” Eckart said.

Eckart is adapting well to the school as she is involved with cross country and plays the violin in orchestra.  She likes the school, even though it’s a lot bigger than what she’s used to.

“It’s much bigger than my school.  At my school I think we have about 700 to 800. It’s really cool and really big,” Eckart said.

The third foreign exchange student, Amalie Vallentin, comes from Germany’s neighbor to the north.  She is from Copenhagen, Denmark and is here to experience America.

Before coming over, she already knew some English.  She wanted to learn more about the language and also she wanted an experience away from home.  On top of that, she likes America and wanted to come live here for the year.

“I want to learn the language more and I wanted the experience. I wanted to be away from home, and I thought America was a good choice, both because I know the language so I can communicate with people, but also because I like to be here,” Vallentin said.

She noticed that our people here in America are more social.

“Here people are more kind.  They talk with strangers, and they would never do that in Denmark,” Vallentin said.

Even though she isn’t involved with anything in the school, she likes the school and the people in it.

“I like to be here, everyone is kind, and all my teachers are very good and sweet,” said Vallentin.

Vallentin is a little homesick but is enjoying America and the opportunity to learn here.

“I miss my family and friends of course, and sometimes I also miss to speak Danish,” Vallentin said.

All of these foreign exchange students are happy to be here.  They are grateful for the opportunity to be in America and go to school.