Foreign exchange student experiences new, exciting aspects of American life

Photo by Kasey Stallbaum
Senior Mark K. gets set for the snap at the Gatorade scrimmage held on Aug. 22. Mark K. decided to join the football team after participating in a football club in his hometown in Germany.

Jonah S.

Let’s go get pancakes! Practice is after school, right? Does school really get out at 3:35?

For senior foreign exchange student Mark K., these were all new pieces of how Americans live. He began realizing all of this after arriving in Nebraska on July 30 from Moringen in the Lower Saxony region of Germany.

“I wanted to experience this culture. I didn’t want to go to the U.K. or Australia. I wanted to go to the U.S. because I really like the country and I wanted to see it in person,” Mark K. said.

Before arriving in the U.S. he had never had American pancakes, only really big, thin pancakes. He had never had practice after school, only practice once or twice a week with his American football club. Finally, his school in Moringen got out earlier than school in David City. They would start at 7:45 a.m. and get out at 1 p.m..

Along with time changes in school and the different types of food he enjoys, Mark K.’s family life has also changed. In Germany, he was an only child. He would spend his time working out, hanging out with friends, and occasionally going on runs because unlike in America, Germany doesn’t allow kids to have demanding jobs until they are older. Mark K. said Germany wants kids to focus on school and clubs instead of money and work.

“In Germany, there are hardly any teenagers that work. They don’t allow you to do hard work until you are 18,” Mark K. said. “You are allowed to do easy work, like hand out papers, but you wouldn’t be allowed to work at McDonald’s or a place like that.”

When he arrived in the United States, he knew he would be staying with Jim and Linda Ostry who are also hosting another foreign exchange student, senior Viktor J. from Slovakia. This allows Mark K. the opportunity to have a “brother” figure in his life.

“I think that living with Viktor is pretty cool. I never had a brother, and I think it is a great experience for both of us,” Mark K. said.

Despite all of these changes, it has been an easy transition for Mark K. He said he has adjusted really well to the new routine and has been engaging in school and football.

Right when he arrived, Mark K. knew he wanted to join the football team. He said he enjoys football in the United States a lot more than in Germany because of the different practice schedule and the different equipment you get to use.

“I really like the sports activities here in the U.S. You have football practice right after school, and you have football practice every day. That is something new,” Mark K. said.

From the first day he showed up to practice, the team accepted him and helped him learn. In school, he has easily adjusted to the different classes. He is taking all of the core classes, along with Spanish IV. But Spanish hasn’t been a problem for Mark K. as he already speaks four different languages: German, English, Spanish, and a bit of Russian.

“Nothing has really surprised me. It is kind of like those American high school movies. That is exactly how I pictured it. So, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Mark K. said. “I get along with the football team and a few other students. I blend in pretty well.”

In Germany, Mark K. only had clubs for sports, and the clubs were not affiliated with his school. A lot of the practice was on his own because the teams only had practice once or twice a week. Mark K. said most students only participate in one or two clubs because the activities take up a lot of personal time. Due to this, he only participates in the American Football club in Germany.

If Mark K. finds a club at DCHS that he is interested in, he said he will join it and hopefully have a lot of fun. In addition to football, Mark K. said he hopes to be involved with basketball and track and field.

As he settles in and gets used to the norms, Mark K. aspirers to learn more about the different aspects of American culture and how people interact. He hopes the experience will be great for him and everyone around him.