We recently heard from one of our Local Coordinators about Verena a high school exchange student from Germany hosted in Kansas. She shared:
“Verena was featured in the school magazine for her cross-country accomplishments. She was given the school award for Cross-Country Athlete of the Year. She had never run cross-country before and was the only female from Shawnee Heights High School in Kansas to qualify for state competition. She also got a spot in the highly competitive Jazz Band, plays piano with the High School Chamber Orchestra and will do a piano solo and accompany a French Horn student for music competitions in the spring. She takes private piano lessons and is working on completing a piano certification program. In addition to all that, Verena is on the debate team! She is doing winter conditioning and intends to be on the track and field team in the spring. Best of all she has the most sparkling, optimistic attitude! She’s a treasure! She is hosted by the Kramars, who are so proud of her!”
Greenheart Exchange sponsors hundreds of international high school exchange students who come to the USA to learn about how we live and sometimes they learn about themselves. We asked Verena to tell us more about her busy life in the USA. Here’s her story:
I wouldn’t say they are better than German ones, but I love the environment in them. I learn with less pressure than I was used to in my German High School, and I just have more fun learning and enjoying going to my classes without being afraid of an upcoming quiz, which I was always afraid of in Germany. But it is not the classes I like most. I like the extracurricular activities.
I was on the cross-country team in the fall and plan to join the track team in the spring. I am playing piano in the Jazz Band, and chamber orchestra and will accompany the band in spring. These activities just make it so much fun, because these are things you like to do, and you are good at. You do them with people that share the same passion you have. And therefore these activities brought me lots of friends, too. I hadn’t these opportunities in Germany because German schools don’t offer that much.
I decided to try it out because I am athletic and people told me, doing sports in a High School is very fun and you get to know people. I really enjoyed doing it, although at first, I thought every day after school would be too much, I got used to it and in the end, I was even mad when I missed a practice, or it got canceled. We had nearly every Saturday a cross-country meet, where we would meet in the morning at school and drive together to our competition. In High School, you must run five kilometers. Honestly, I hate running in a meeting. I always give what I have and therefore I am exhausted and tired and just want to cross the finish line. But, I liked those meets. Not because of the run itself but because of the people there. When we girls ran, the boys would stand next to the course and cheer for us, and when they would run, we would cheer for them. A lot of the runner’s parents were there and would cheer, too. Always when I saw them or heard them shouting, I ran a little faster because I just have the feeling of support in me at this moment. After the run, the others would come to you and tell you their congrats. And that is the best part of doing cross country: having this feeling of being in a team and getting support. It doesn’t matter if you are an exchange student or not, you run for the team, and therefore you a part of it.
The parents would also support the team in bringing snacks, water, and something to eat after the run. They also organized those so-called “pasta meets”. Always the day before a meet, we would come together and eat pasta because “eat pasta, run faster” was our motto. So, we would meet without having practice, more for just spending time with the team and eating different kinds of pasta dishes like lasagna or spaghetti, which I personally love. This wouldn’t have been possible without the parents. The team also met weekly for bonfires, where we would go to someone’s house and have a bonfire, eat snacks, and play games like hide and seek and talk. Although I don’t like going to bed late, I always stayed until the end at 11 pm because I didn’t want to leave early. Getting tired was totally worth it!
I had this fall a unique experience and I am so happy I decided to join the cross-country team and all the other extracurricular activities I am doing. I can just say to other people to do an exchange year, too. You see a lot, experience a lot, and learn a lot, which is just unique and wonderful.
Thank you Verena for sharing your experience!
Greenheart Exchange is currently looking for families to host international exchange students this fall. If you are interested in hosting a student like Verena, please visit HostwithGreenheart.org to apply.