Webster Groves High School is hosting four foreign exchange students this year from Germany, the Czech Republic and Brazil. The exchange is through an organization called Step-In.
The students arrived just before the start of the school year, and will stay through the year.
Junior Lasse Laubach, who is from Braunschweiger, Germany, said he thought the biggest difference between the United States and Germany was in the school system.
“In Germany, the teachers are really strict, and they don’t understand fun… Here, our teachers are very kind and helpful if you have a question. It’s not like in Germany,” Laubach said.
Laubach added there were major differences in the school day itself, saying, “In Germany, we only have three classes [every day], the classes are 90 minutes, and we don’t have lunch.” He explained, “In America, we eat lunch with all our friends in the cafeteria, but there, we eat lunch by ourselves [at home].”
Senior Jan Jicha, who is from the Czech Republic, also said he thought the biggest difference was in the school system.
“The teachers’ enthusiasm to learn [is the most different]. The teachers actually want to teach. In Czech, they usually just do it for money. They don’t enjoy teaching the students so it’s hard for students to learn,” said Jicha.
Beyond the school day, junior Mathilda Wedemeyer, who is from Germany as well, said there were many differences outside of school as well.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is the highway. In Germany, we don’t have a speed limit on the highway, and here you can only drive like 90 [km/hr],” Wedemeyer said.
Jicha agreed that transportation was different. “In Czech, we have plenty of public transport everywhere. In the U.S., you can only use a car,” he said.
Senior Gabi deSouza, who is from Brazil, found a difference in culture and food.
“The time when people eat, because for you guys, you don’t have an exact time. In Brazil, we have right times to eat,” deSouza said.
Jicha found more similarities than differences in the food, though.
“My family is cooking a lot, so I have very similar foods to Czech… Pastas, rice, normal cooked stuff,” Jicha said.
As for why she decided to study abroad, Wedemeyer said, “It was always a dream for me, since I was like 11. I’ve always wanted to do au pair, or work in travel, and just see different parts of the world.”
Wedemeyer added she was excited to experience school spirit and activities. “I want to see the school spirit…and all the dances and special days, like Turkey Day.”
deSouza and Laubach agreed they were excited for school dances, like the Friendship Dance and Prom.
The students said while their experience in America has been positive so far, it wasn’t always easy.
“I think at the beginning, it was the language, because it was hard… in Germany, I speak everyday German, and here I have to speak everyday English. If I don’t know a word in English, it’s hard for the others to say it to me, because I can’t ask them in German what it means,” Laubach explained.
Jicha said the packing was the hardest part of his experience so far, saying, “I couldn’t bring a lot of stuff with me because I needed to get only one luggage, so I needed to buy a lot of things here.”
“I think really leaving everything behind. To see friends doing stuff together, and you’re not there. Or you miss your parents, and your mom and everything…missing home and all the people you know,” Wedemeyer said.
Still, students said they were enjoying their time in the United States.
“I like the nature [in the United States]. I went to a park… I think it was Forest Park, and the nature was beautiful,” Laubach said, adding, “I like the temperatures. It’s very warm here. In Germany, it’s really cold.”
“I like it a lot. I think I learned quite a bit over the month I’ve been here,” Jicha said.
“I love it here… Everyone is so nice and helps you when you have problems. It’s more like a gap year from Germany, so it’s great,” Wedemeyer agreed.
This will be Hadley Hoskins’ second year on Echo staff.