German Foreign Exchange Student Seeks American Experience

Laura Strack, foreign exchange student from Germany
Laura Strack, foreign exchange student from Germany

Leaving everything she had once known behind, German foreign exchange student Laura Strack made the long journey to the United States to get a taste of the American experience for herself. With a penchant for travel and a curiosity for what life is like here, Strack turned to an exchange program. 

After a long process filled with forms and interviews, Strack was selected and was well on her way to becoming a student at an American high school for a year.

On Aug. 24, one week before the start of the 2023-’24 school year at NHS, Strack arrived in Neenah to open arms. Her host family, the Wynen’s, warmly welcomed  Strack to America. Along with her host parents, she has three host siblings: 8- and 10-year-old  host sisters and a 19-year-old host brother who was a NHS graduate. She describes her host family as kind and mentions how they always keep her busy, whisking her along to all sorts of places for all sorts of activities . From a trip to the Wisconsin Dells to attending Oktoberfest all within her first week here, Strack’s host family have made it their mission to show her as many things as they can while she is in America.

The thing that Strack was looking forward to the most, though, was to start school here. After hearing all about the American high school experience in the movies, she was excited to begin her junior year in the states. 

Despite that excitement, there was still some lingering nervousness. Laura recalls the hardest parts of coming here as having to leave behind her loved ones, as well as beginning school here completely alone. Having lived a whole different life back home in Germany with her family and friends, she describes the start of the new school year in America as “a new life.” 

This year the classes that she is taking include U.S. history, English, math, psychology, painting, culinary arts and dance. A number of her classes differ from those offered in Germany. In her German school, she had primarily taken basics. Here, she has the opportunity to take subjects such as psychology and dance, classes that had not otherwise been available to her. She particularly enjoys dance, having participated in expressive, or show, dance in Germany. Strack has also joined the swim team  and plans on playing lacrosse in the spring. 

Life varies in Germany compared with life in the states. Strack is from Wisbaden, Germany. According to Britanica, Wiesbaden is one of the oldest spa cities in Germany and was especially famous in the 18th and 19th centuries. It features over two dozen hot springs and a mild climate. As expected, Neenah is a big change. So far, she has enjoyed American activities, including homecoming and football games.

To Strack, the most surprising part about coming here so far is the people.

“They are so open. Everybody can talk to everybody.”

She explains how in Germany, people tend to stick with just their friends at school and do not often reach out and talk to everyone around them. Here, everyone is more open with one another, both in school and out in public in places such as restaurants or stores. 

After her exchange year, Strack plans on returning to visit people again and is currently considering her options for college. Beyond school, she has plans to travel around the world. Strack aims to see as many new places as she can, but until then, she cannot wait to see what the future holds. 

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