Cedar Park hosts foreign exchange students

Lauren Hansen

     Cedar Park is part of a foreign exchange program. The program was named “exchange” because originally two students would trade places between different countries. The program no longer requires that the students trade places, so the student may choose where they want to go. This year we have five foreign exchange students on campus. These students are looking for an experience of a lifetime and   to learn what it’s like to live in another culture. They are Dominik Brzeski, Amilie Korkrisch, Karina Kuzmiakova, Soninka Pecenakova and Solveig Gode.

     The students come to the U.S. and live in a host home. The host home provides a family-like setting for the student throughout their stay. Although the family does everything they can to make the student feel at home, it can get lonely for the exchange student at times.

     “It’s nice to meet a new family. They spend a lot of time with me, but I miss my family a lot,” Dominik Brzeski, junior, said.

     Brzeski is from Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is the fifth- largest city in Germany. Frankfurt has an estimated population of 670,000, while Austin has a much larger estimated population of 1,652,602. Not only do the two cities differ in size, but also in culture.

     “The religions are very different here. The host family goes to church every Sunday. In Germany, we go to church only four or five times a year, only on special occasions. Also, churches here are more fun. In Germany, the churches are more traditional,” Brzeski said.

    Solveig Gode is from Lübeck, Germany. Lübeck is north of Germany and near the Baltic Sea. Gode heard about the exchange program from a friend who absolutely loved it. This friend inspired her to try it.

     “I’ve also lived here before for two years, when I was two, so I don’t remember a lot, but I always wanted to come back. Further, I want to improve my English, because I really love the language. I also wanted to live the typical ‘American way of life’ and go to a typical American high school, which you always see in these high school movies,” Gode, junior, said.

     Amilie Korkrisch is from Hamburg, Germany. It is the second-largest city in Germany, after Berlin. In Germany, the schools are divided into primary and secondary schools. Primary school is equivalent to our elementary and middle schools, while secondary school is similar to our high schools. There are also seventeen universities located in Hamburg. The schools in Germany are different than schools here.

     “Most schools in Germany are smaller. They don’t have a system like ‘A’ and ‘B’ days. School starts earlier and you can go home for lunch. There is no school spirit because there are no activities to do together. There are only clubs after school. In Germany, you have to be more respectful. Teachers here are more like friends. There are also more exams in Germany,” Korkrisch, junior, said.

     Another thing that differs in high school between Germany and Texas is the high school football craze. Many exchange students don’t understand the phenomenon of this sport; tailgating, body painting and crazy cheering might seem ridiculous to these exchange students.

     “I don’t really understand the game rules and stuff like that, but I think it’s interesting that so many people support high school football,” Pecenakova, junior, said.

     Texas is also assumed to be western and country. Many exchange students come with this mind-set and are surprised when they get here.

     “Texas style, country and western, is not exactly what I liked before but now I have a better opinion about it…I just like Texas,” Kuzmiakova, junior, said.  

     Although this is a dynamic, dramatic experience, it can also be a little challenging. These students are in a new country with a different culture and different customs, getting use to the ‘norm’ may be difficult.

     “The first week of school was really hard though. It’s really hard when you don’t know anybody. It got better from day to day….and I’m starting to make friends. I think already in the second week, I started to really like school! The football games were just amazing and the atmosphere was awesome, I really like it. After one month I can already tell that I love it here, I love Texas and CPHS!” Gode, said.

    “Everything here is very different. I can’t really tell if it’s better or worse. It’s just totally different way of life that I have to get used to,” Pecenakova, said.

     While trying to adjust to life here in America, many students find things that they miss from home. Others find things here they like a lot better.

     “Other exchange students say that they miss the German food, but I don’t really. I love the ice cream here, it’s the best! I have my own room here and a queen-size bed which is the best thing ever!” Gode, said.

     These students come here for different reasons, many of them because they have friends that have loved it. Other students come because they want to improve their English.

     “I wanted to do the program because I wanted to improve my language and my golf. I always wanted to come to America and get to know the culture and people,” Kuzmiakova, said.

     The foreign exchange student program allows students from other countries to experience life in a new culture. They are able to explore language, culture and customs in a new way. It is an amazing opportunity and an experience of a lifetime.

     “People said Texas would be very different and just desert and hot. But they probably haven’t been to Cedar Park. I’m just so glad that I came to Texas, because the people are so much friendlier here and more laid back. My dad loves Texas, he comes down here a lot, because he has friends in Houston, and he said right from the beginning that I’m definitely in the right state and that he is so glad I got to come to Texas. In fact, I am too.” Gode, said.