Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Kimball Area High School had two foreign exchange students this year, both from Germany.
As they near the end of this school year, we talked with them about their experiences. Many of their responses were similar. Both had a good year and will, no doubt, remember their year in Kimball fondly.
Larissa Anthofer is from Munich in Bavaria, the southern part of Germany. Her parents are Elisabeth and Josef Anthofer. Her host family has been Tom and Karla Ehlinger.
Lara Weber is from near Bremen, in the northwest corner of Germany, near the North Sea. Her parents are Matthias and Andrea Weber. Her host family has been Ed and Rose Borman.
This school year was the equivalent of the sophomore year of high school for both girls. When they return to Germany, the will need to complete two more years before receiving their high school diploma.
Through their sponsoring organization, Youth For Understanding, Larissa and Lara spent a week meeting with former exchange students in preparation for their year here. They learned what to expect here, what they need to do, can't do, and so on.
"I don't think you can really prepare [for a year abroad] because you don't know what to expect," said Larissa.
"When you're over here, it's different," added Lara.
Both had studied English before coming to the United States, although Lara admits she struggled with it when she first arrived.
When asked what surprised them, despite their preparations, Lara immediately said she was amazed that you have to sign out of class for the bathroom.
Both surprised at how small Kimball is, and that everyone knows everyone (and are often related to everyone).
Lara said the size of our school surprised her. Her German school has 3,000 students. Larissa's host sister Hannah, by comparison, has six students in her class at Holy Cross School in Pearl Lake.
When asked what they liked best about Kimball, both exclaimed "Powder Ridge!"
Lara admitted that it may seem strange that two girls who regularly ski in the Alps would enjoy our ski hill, but it could easily be explained in one word: Snowboarding. Both learned to snowboard this year, and thought it was "awesome."
School sports was another appeal to Larissa and Lara. In Germany, they don't have sports as part of school. If you want to play competitive sports, you need to join sports clubs outside of school.
Our "school spirit" was a pleasant surprise, as were the cheap price of clothes here (about half of what they are in Germany).
Texting (and its use everywhere and all the time) also was something new for the two girls.
While in Kimball for just over nine months, it's only natural that they have missed their friends and family. They've also missed some of their favorite foods, like the many types of German bread, Nutella, and sparkling water. It is possible to find these items here, but it's difficult, and expensive.
At the same time, they will miss Kimball people, the friends they've made here. They'll also miss school sports; both competed in cross-country and girls' basketball for Kimball.
To both Larissa and Lara, this past year has been "easy" for them. Not to mean that they haven't learned much, but rather that our school regime is not as rigorous as that in Germany. By comparison, the school day in Germany is 10 hours long.
The girls said they will cherish some of the memories they've shared with their host families, like big family holidays, and family trips.
"We are thankful that our host families were so open to us," said Lara. "They opened their lives." She added that this was wonderful, even when it was sometimes hard. But this is what it's like being part of a family.
Larissa added that she's grateful for the patience of her host family.
Larissa and Lara will return to Germany on the same flight, June 30. Meanwhile, they have graduation to look forward to, and graduation parties.
Both students came to Kimball through the Youth For Understanding program This and other exchange student programs are always looking for host families for exchange students. If you are interested in learning more, talk with families who have hosted students before. It can be a very rewarding experience. (We have contact information for some of the exchange agencies at the Tri-County News office, too.)