Exchange for a change

From+left+to+right%3A+Samuel+Glassman%2C+%E2%80%9825%2C+Gustaf+Neumann%2C%E2%80%99+25%2C+Max+Blessing%2C+%E2%80%9825%2C+Julyan+Grimaitre%2C%E2%80%99+25.+

Hajra Munir

From left to right: Samuel Glassman, ‘25, Gustaf Neumann,’ 25, Max Blessing, ‘25, Julyan Grimaitre,’ 25.

William Demeter, Features Writer

This year, foreign exchange students came to WHHS for the first time since the pandemic paused many study abroad programs. Julyan Grimaitre,’ 25, Gustaf Neumann,’ 25, Samuel Glassman, ’25 and Max Blessing, ‘25 traveled from different parts of Europe to attend high school and live in Ohio. Blessing and Grimaitre are from Switzerland, and Neumann and Glassmen are from Germany.

“[So far, living in the U.S.] is nice because it’s something different for one year,” Glassman said. “You [get to] have lots of different experiences, which are good experiences, you get to know new people and new cultures.”

Foreign exchange students live with a volunteer host family while attending WHHS. Due to changes in many aspects of their daily routines, the transition to living thousands of miles from home comes with challenges.

“[The hardest part was] probably leaving my family, home, and my friends,” Neumann said. Grimaitre agreed and said, “[I’m most connected to] my home because I have all my life there. My house, my social life, my family.”

However, some things remain similar, despite living under a new roof. 

“I [still] always have to make my own laundry and I gotta listen to her, [my mom]. She’s basically my parent here.” Neumann said.

While foreign exchange students can participate in the many clubs, sports and extracurriculars WHHS has to offer, they face some restrictions in travel and language. Exchange students are not allowed to have a license, even when they turn 16.

“We have a lot of trains [in Germany], so we can get everywhere without going by car, but that’s not possible here,” Glassman said. “The public transportation in Europe is so much better, you can go wherever you want by yourself.” 

 The exchange students noticed that there is more freedom for teenagers and young adults in Europe. They found that it is not uncommon to see people under 18 alone on public transportation. 

“[In the U.S.], you have to take a car to go everywhere [which is] a really bad thing because you are not independent,” Grimaitre said.

Along with lifestyle changes, foreign exchange students are adapting to a new school system. Learning through a language barrier can be difficult, and causes differences in their education when compared to native English speakers. In the U.S, some found that education moves at a faster pace and includes subjects that are not traditionally taught in Europe. The foreign exchange students have started to involve themselves in the WHHS community by joining the soccer team, jazz band, newspaper staff and attending football games. 

“[I was initially worried about] the school system that is completely different, but it took me maybe a week and it was totally fine… I really like the high school life,” Neumann said. 

“Everything here is bigger, [and] that’s sometimes nice because it helps with communication,” Blessing said.