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Exchange students experience a new culture

Students share their experiences of learning through travel between Germany and Michigan

Senior Felicia Lemmon (left) and sophomore Charlotte Woelk are both on the Holt cross country team and have experienced different cultures through exchange. [Photo by Jami Sailer]

Traveling to a different country to be an exchange student can bring all new adventures. Every year, students get to travel internationally to receive a new learning experience in a different country. In the United States alone, there are approximately 1.2 million international students. Some of those students are getting their learning experiences in Holt. This year, two students have traveled to and from their home countries of Germany and the US. Senior Felicia Lemmon got the chance to go to Germany and spend 11 months engaged in the culture. “It is important to me to meet new people because of long term connections,” Lemmon said. Sophomore Charlotte Woelk, meanwhile, came from Germany and is getting the chance to spend her time here in Holt for one semester. “ I am having a good time meeting a new culture,” Woelk said. The girls are getting the chance to share their experiences. There are a lot of new things to learn when involved in different cultures and schools. “The entire system is different,” Woelk said. For example, Holt High School runs on a traditional six period schedule, with the same six classes meeting ever y day during the semester, never changing, unlike in Germany. In Germany there can be 11 to 13 classes in one semester and a different schedule every day. Lemmon got the chance to get credits for physics and chemistry for her senior year. “You only have the same class once to twice a week for 45 minutes to one and half hours,” Lemmon said.

"It is important to me to meet new people because of long term connections."

”The size of the schools are also different. In Germany, the grades in high school are from sixth to twelfth grade and all in one building, mixing students on a wide spectrum of grades. “This school is small,” Woelk said. According to Woelk, Holt’s main campus is a lot smaller than her own school. Holt has only four grades in two schools, whereas in Germany they have eight grades in one school. One of the only similarities is the dress codes in the schools. “The dress code in Germany is more like don’t dress crazy. They trust you not to be crazy,” Lemmon said. Also, less time is spent on homework in Germany. “I did not do a ton of homework. They don’t give as much homework as they do here,” Lemmon said. With the newfound free time, Lemmon took advantage of some extracurricular options. She boxed and joined choir to fill her spare time. Woelk, meanwhile, fills her free time with cross country and homework here in Holt. All in all, while their experiences varied, the goals the girls set for themselves were very similar.

From Left to Right: Sophomore Peri VanAken, her mother, Dawn VanAken, and sophomore Charlotte Woelk. Woelk traveled from Germany and is with her host family. [Photo courtesy of Dawn VanAken]

Lemmon wanted to learn German and better understand, the culture and the people, while Woelk had the goal to learn English and have a good time being involved in a new culture. All cultures are unique and there are so many different cultures in Holt High School. Being educated is important when you are learning a new language. Lemmon learned German by getting extra training for a few months in the second half of her year. “I don’t think [the training] helped much but being fully immersed in the language in what is helpful,” Lemmon said. Her host family helped by correcting her speaking and helping her enjoy her experience. Even though these opportunities are once in a lifetime, there are pros and cons. These exciting experiences also come with unwanted reality. “I am quite homesick, but I know it is just the beginning, so I think it will get a lot better,” Woelk said. Woelk has already made new friends to help her feel happier. “There are always bumps in the road but in the end it is definitely a positive experience,” Lemmon said.

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