Five familiar faces, five foreign homelands

Rachel Lyon, Online Edition Editor

Along with Romeo Vonlathen, five other foreign exchange students have been roaming the halls this year. Juniors Chiara Donnini, Sofie Hansen, Julia Jaeger, Sara Lauterbach and Hongzhi Wang have all joined the Cougar family.
The foreign exchange program offers students the opportunity to explore a new culture while learning in a new way. Students apply to the program hoping to get different things out of the experience.
Lauterbach is from Braunschweig, Germany.
“I wanted to learn the language fluently, experience high school, since we see all high school stuff on TV with prom and cheerleaders. I just wanted to experience it,” Lauterbach said.
For Hansen, from Søborg, Denmark, it was an opportunity to make what she had heard about the U. S. a reality.
“In Denmark, we hear a lot about the United States, and my brother and sister have both been here, too. I wanted to get a better view of the world and experience high school somewhere else,” Hansen said.
Jaeger, from Ibbenüren, Germany, also decided to come to America because of a strong family influence.
“My siblings were here for one year too a lot of years ago, and they said it was the best experience, and I’ve always wanted to do it since I was really little,” Jaeger said.
The students hoped to make the best of their time here.
Donnini is from Dance Palermo, Italy.
“I was excited and nervous because I mean, obviously, here I don’t know anyone, so it’s kind of weird. But I was kind of excited because you have a lot to offer here that we don’t have,” Donnini said.
Donnini said that here, we have “huge rooms” and “more practical things.”
Starting a new school for anyone comes with difficulties for anyone. However, crossing the ocean to an entirely new continent to attend a new school can be even more daunting.
For Lauterbach, everything is “completely different.”
“Everything that is normal for you is completely un-normal for me,” Lauterbach said.
For all of the students, our school was a big adjustment.
“Here is huge. In Italy my high school is less than half of this, so obviously you have huge rooms,” Donnini said.
Wang would agree with the fact that our school size is very different.
“It’s totally different. For example, we always stay in one classroom. We stay with one teacher, and here you need to walk. And another one is that you’re busier here because we always stay in one room. This school has different classrooms,” Wang said.
When students come here, they are not only introduced to a new school, but a new family and a new way of living as well. Jaeger said that she felt scared before arriving here.
“I didn’t really know my family. I knew them from email and Facebook, but you don’t really know them, so it’s weird,” Jaeger said.
The food here is also very different to someone visiting for the first time. Quark is a dairy product used in Germany as milk and cheese are used in the United States.
“You don’t have ‘quark’ on your food pyramid. The chocolate chip cookie is my favorite. They are very soft,” Lauterbach said.
As one might expect, Jaeger was interested in trying a meal at the classic-American fast-food restaurant of McDonald’s, but with perhaps unexpected results.
“It’s not my favorite. I mean it’s okay if you’re in a hurry and don’t know what to eat, but back in Germany I would never eat breakfast at McDonald’s,” Jaeger said.
Some of the exchange students also didn’t want to miss being out in the bleachers for the Friday night football games.
“All the students come together and have good kinsmanship,” Lauterbach said.
Donnini also wanted to make the best of her time here and decided to attend the games as well.
“I like your energy. Your group together is so funny. I wish I could go to more,” Donnini said.
Other activities that we might take for granted have been interesting to for the students to try.
“I like just riding in the car with some senior friends of mine, and it’s just so fun because in Italy we can’t drive until we’re 18, so it’s more laid back,” Donnini said.
Even though the students have had to adapt to some very different circumstances, they still felt as if they were a part of our community.
“When I came here, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t going to a foreign country,” Lauterbach said. “I felt like I was going home.”