German Foreign Exchange Student Takes Inspiration from Sister to Travel Internationally


Photo by: Irati Deperrest

Irati dressed to attend NHS homecoming.

Ella Mainville and Emerson Bluemke

Although an extensive and slightly nerve-wracking decision, Irati Deperrest, a German native, took a chance and chose to participate in foreign exchange during the 2022-’23 school year. Irati, who prefers to be called by her first name, expressed that her older sister attempted to participate in foreign exchange when she was in school, but her program unfortunately ended because of COVID-19. Even with insecurities about her English, Irati was inspired by her sister’s ideas, and wanted to improve her ability to speak the language, so she applied to the foreign exchange program.

Her exchange process started two years ago, when she began observing her sister go through preparation for her exchange. Later preparation continued with watching YouTube videos of other student’s involvement with foreign exchange, their experiences speaking to her interests. Even throughout her process, she did not know that she was going to end up in Wisconsin.

This year her courses include math, English, U.S. history, Spanish, gym and chemistry, similar classes to those required in Germany. She is also taking glass and creative forms, which differs from something she might take back home. While unsure of what she would like to pursue in the future, she knows she will be returning home to Germany at the end of the year.

The societal differences between foreign exchange students home countries and their host countries are often a key point of an exchange student’s experience, and it is no different for Irati. She enjoys her experience and says “everyone is super nice here.”

Irati struggled coming out of her shell in the beginning because of her shyness, but the culture at NHS helped her to open up through other student’s compliments and kind words. Additionally, while teachers in Germany are more distant, the teachers are friendly and helpful. The classroom dynamic in her home country was quite independent, she says, with students holding less of a relationship with teachers. The United States also brought a new meaning of food to Irati. She described the food as “very sweet, with a lot more sugar,” also saying that “hamburgers and pizza are so much better here.”

Irati lives with the Leists family and has a host sister and brother. Her host sister also goes to Neenah, and her host brother goes to college in Denmark. Having played handball in Germany, Irati would like to try something new while she lives in Neenah, so she plans on trying out for lacrosse in the spring.

Irati’s home is in Hanover, Germany, which is about two hours away from Berlin when taking a train, according to Trainline, a trusted European ticket distrubutor.  In her home city, her family includes an older sister, 18, her parents, and a dog. Although Irati is from Germany, her parents come from other parts of Europe: her mother, Spain, and her father, France. According to Britannica, Hanover is known for its reputation as the “garden city” because of its beautiful gardens and parks that are as common as cheese curds in Wisconsin.