Lara is one-third into her adventure as a German Exchange Student in America! Time is certainly going fast! So, what better time than now to “interview” her about the experience. I asked friends and family to give me questions to ask her about her life here. In this Blog, I’ve included the questions with a “Q”, her answer with an “A”, and then my comments as her Host Mother and what I have observed about her. I think you will find some of the subjects interesting! Enjoy!
Q: Has the learning curve for English become much easier?
A: “Yes, because I’m thinking more in English now instead of thinking in German and then remembering “how” to talk in English.”
Me: I’ve seen great progress in Lara’s English. The first couple months she would struggle with finding the right word quite often and she spoke in a very quiet voice, almost as if she was unsure of herself. If she didn’t know how to say something, her first response would be to get her translator or go to Google Translator on the computer or say, “I don’t know how to say that.” She doesn’t use those tools very often now, is speaking more…and I should add she is talking much louder! It’s a sign of confidence plus, I think she realizes, if she’s going to keep up with this family… she better speak up! I’ve started correcting her more often on her grammar. When I told her I was going to start doing that, she made a funny face… as if she didn’t like that. But I told her if I didn’t correct her grammar she would not grow in the language. Even when she sends me a text message from school, if there is a grammar error, I re-send the text back with the correct grammar … and a smiley face, of course! By the time she goes home to Germany, her English will be flawless!
Q: What does she like best about America… what does she wish she could change?
A: “What I like best is that everything is newer. What I wish I could change is to make Americans care more about the environment.”
Me: I knew what Lara was going to say she liked best so far. She always says the buildings and roads and houses are so new compared to Germany. And I always say that is what Americans love about Europe… the beauty of the old historic buildings. I guess it’s all in relation to what we are accustomed to living with and the beauty of experiencing anything that is different. As for caring more about the environment, I explained to her that some people are more careful, some are not. She follows our recycling program here in Mesa but it is not as thorough as the program in her hometown. They have separate bins to sort plastic, glass and paper. Ours go into one bin. Then we have a separate trash container for greenery like tree branches and grass clippings. And another trash bin for other waste. She is very conscious when Terry is watering his flowers in the planters making sure he turns on a timer so the water doesn’t overflow and is wasted. We will probably learn a few things from Lara in this department. 🙂
Q: What was the biggest surprise or difference from what she expected?
A: “I thought I would have more language problems. I thought Americans knew more about the world. And I did not think school would be so different as my school.”
Me: Lara is quickly learning that Americans are not quite sure where all the European countries are located or know a lot about their history. She giggles at some of it. I, however, share with her that there are probably many Europeans who do not know all the states in the USA. In fact, there are some Americans who aren’t sure where all the states are located either, especially those of us living on the West Coast unsure about all those small states on the East Coast!
As for school, it is quite different in America. Lara’s school is grades 5 through 12 and there are about 1,500 students. Her school here is grades 9 through 12 and 3200 students. In her grade at home, there are 6 classes of about 30 students. Most of them stay together throughout the day. And every day is different. In America, each of her classes are at the same time every day, school starts at 7:30a and ends at 2:30pm. In Germany, she could start at 8am one day and 9am another, depending on which classes she has scheduled. And many times, her teachers change classrooms, not the students. She has mentioned that it’s a little more boring in America because it’s the same thing over and over. I can understand that.
Q: Are American boys cuter?
A: (Giggling and blushing) “They are not cuter than German boys but they are not uglier. Some are cute and some are not, just like in Germany.”
Me: Oh, the healthy Teenage girl isn’t really different just because they are from a different country! Boys are boys are boys! Thankfully, Lara is not “boy crazy” like some girls her age can be! She’s not chasing after boys or asking to date! Whew! That’s one less worry on my mind!!! 🙂
Q: Besides family and friends, what does she miss most?
A: (laughing) “German Bread Rolls.”
Me: This came to light in the last week or so. When Lara was preparing to come to America, she was told that she will get really tired of soft bread. And about a week ago, she finally said, “I can’t eat soft bread anymore.” Then she explained that their bread in Germany has a hard crust and soft in the middle…but not as soft as ours. So now I buy her a long loaf of fresh bread in the store bakery and we toast it for sandwiches or jelly or Nutella. It’s kind of funny because Americans love soft warm bread out of the oven!!!
A: “Many of the foods are the same. I really like the soda machine at Wendy’s though.”
Me: This is so funny! We took her to Wendy’s for the first time about 2 weeks ago. The one by our house has a million-dollar soda machine that has 130 flavors. You can mix and match just about anything. I’m not even going to try to explain how it works. Instead, here’s the website. http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/zachary-wilson/and-how/coca-cola-gives-ten-times-choices-freestyle
Q: What is your favorite store?
A: “We have many of the same stores but I like Forever 21 and WalMart.”
Me: I knew she’d like Forever 21. What American teenager doesn’t? I talked about it in my posts from Washington DC and New York City. Inexpensive, cute, trendy, young-people clothes! But I was surprised to hear WalMart! I think it’s because she can go there and get just about anything she needs. It’s convenient. It’s also inexpensive for someone on a tight budget. WalMart sometimes gets a bad rap but for someone from Germany…it’s just what she needs. For those of you overseas, here is a link for WalMart. http://www.walmart.com/
Q: What was the hardest thing to adjust to?
A: ‘Waking up earlier for school.”
Me: Teens are teens are teens! What more can I say about this? She gets up an hour earlier for school. Just an hour. And apparently that’s an hour too much! On weekends, Lara and Brittany both wake up on their own around 9:00 or 9:30am.
Q: What do you like about Arizona so far?
A: “The heat.”
Me: My first reaction was, “WHAT? The heat? As in 115 degrees of heat?” She said, “No, not really that… the warm weather is what I like.” She came here when it was 110-115 degrees every day… and the hottest August on record! Now, she’s cold when it drops below 70 degrees… which is considered summer weather back in Germany. When it dips down to 60 degrees at night, while we are sitting outside at one of Brittany’s softball games, Lara is bundled up in a coat and blanket and goes into the bathroom to use the hand dryers because they are so warm! How quickly her body has adapted to our weather here! I told her when she first came here that when it’s in the 60’s here, we are bundled up in coats. She didn’t believe it at first!!!
Q: What is your advice for other students who may want to come to America?
A: “You must not be shy, you must be outgoing. And know English well. Some students can speak the language in class but it is different when you are here.”
Me: Lara seemed a little shy at first…but that’s expected for a 15-year-old coming to another country and staying with complete strangers! But she quickly opened up and is adjusting so well! I’m not shy at all but I could imagine being shy in the same situation that she is in. As for her English, I mentioned the challenges above. She has no problem holding a complete conversation in English!
Q: What is your favorite class in school?
A: “Clay and Dance.”
Me: Lara is only required to take English and American History. All her other classes are electives. Pretty nice, huh? I think it’s good because she still has homework in her other classes. Taking Math and Science would have been too demanding and hard to understand. As you’ve probably read in an earlier post, I have to help her understand the American History book. There are words and grammar that she just doesn’t understand. That’s the only language barrier we’ve faced. In Clay and Dance, students are able to explore their creative side. I think that takes the stress off of Lara. By the way, her first Dance Concert is in January. Brittany isin Intermediate Dance so she just had a concert last week. We can often find Lara practicing her dance in the house… or in the aisles of WalMart!!!
A: “Easier because I have been able to meet Brittany’s friends but it is harder to make friends on my own. Americans have their “group” of friends already and don’t open up to others, especially Exchange Students.”
Me: All I can say is THANK GOODNESS BRITTANY AND LARA ARE THE SAME AGE!!! I can’t imagine being an Exchange Student in a home with other kids who are younger or older! It could take months to make friends! I am so proud of Brittany for sharing her friends with Lara, having Lara sit with her and her friends at lunch and attend YoungLife events together! Brittany and Lara don’t do everything together but it has allowed Lara to become close friends with some of Brittany’s friends, like Morgan.
A: “They are crazy… but in a fun way!”
Me: Lara was laughing the whole time she answered this question… and quite honestly… I could have answered this for her! Yes, we like to have fun, we like to smile, we like to help people and we believe in making the best out of every situation! Our faith has brought us to this point and we believe everything happens for a reason… so make the best out of it! We truly feel Lara was brought into our lives for a reason and we couldn’t be more thankful!
NEXT: POST: Celebrating the American’s Thanksgiving Holiday and learning what it means. Plus, Lara wants to try “Black Friday”. We’ll see if she makes it!!!