Exchange students share thoughts on American life
Goessel High School is the only high school in the county with exchange students this year, hosting five juniors and one senior from Germany, Spain, and France. Four students — Eider Basoa and Oihane Lechuga from Spain and Sophie Rebitzer and Korvin Heiseke from Germany — gathered Saturday at Pizza Hut in Hillsboro to discuss their experiences with a Record reporter.
At the time, Oihane was on a fake baby assignment from her human growth and development class and had to bring the fake baby with her. Despite its reputation among Goessel students, the fake baby cried only once.
Eider’s host family drove the students, who cannot legally drive in the United States. None of them have licenses in their home countries, either; in both Germany and Spain, the minimum age to drive alone is 18.
Coming to a rural high school, where many students can drive, was a shock.
“They’re 14 and they can drive,” Oihane said.
Sophie was surprised by how many students had not been on a passenger train. Eider and Oihane were similarly surprised by a lack of subways.
“They use cars, nothing else,” Sophie said.
Exchange students cannot work in America during their year. Their main income is allowance from their parents, given in Euros, which is digitally transitioned to U.S. dollars in their bank accounts. Because of this, students rarely pay with cash.
“I haven’t been in a bank yet,” Sophie said.
All three girls are playing basketball at Goessel, although none played it at home in Spain and Germany. Most schools there don’t have sports teams. Instead, there are clubs where children and teens can sign up to play sports outside of school hours.
“I don’t think it’s that unusual,” Eider said about how sports work in America. “You just choose one to play the whole year.”
“But you don’t play school against school,” Oihane said.
“I do,” Eider said.
“I don’t!” Oihane replied. “In Spain?”
“I really thought it was a thing in Spain,” Eider said. “The place that I live in, we play against other schools. There’s like a league.”
Eider goes to a private school with its own sports team.
“You’re making me doubt now, but I thought that happened all over Spain?” Eider said.
“This is the first school I’ve seen,” Oihane said. “None of the schools in my city had sports! None of them. Where do you live? Do you actually live in Spain, or are you lying to me?”
Korvin played football for the first time at Goessel.
“It’s something new to me,” he said. “I love it. I love watching football. I love playing football. It’s fun.”
“I don’t,” Oihane said. “I prefer soccer.”
“I like both,” Sophie said.
During Thanksgiving break, the students traveled with their host families. Oihane went as far as Virginia and got to drive to Washington, D.C., over the weekend.
All four students fit into their host families to the point where they often drop the “host” and instead call them their brothers, sisters, or parents.
Eider is staying with Leslie and Lyndl Duerksen.
“They have three children, and they’re all smaller than me, and I’m like the big sister now,” Eider said. “I never got to be that in Spain. I was the small everything — small cousin, small sister. So I like that.”
Oihane and Korvin have younger siblings. Eider and Sophie have an older sister and older brother, respectively.
Sophie’s older brother was an exchange student in America last year. After hearing about how it went, it inspired her to do the same.
She is staying with Carol and Maynard Duerksen and has encountered their llamas.
“They’re kind of scary,” Sophie said. “You look at them, and they put their ears back, and it’s like ‘OK, I’m gone, I’m leaving.’”
The students said they didn’t feel homesick too often.
“It’s not at all like, ‘I miss my family, I miss my parents,’” Eider said. “The times I felt more sad was because I miss my lifestyle, or going out in the city.”
“Yeah, my friends,” Sophie added.
“More the way we live,” Eider said.
“It’s hard when I see my friends experience different things and I miss it,” Oihane said. “I miss it because I’m here. But I feel like if I’m having a good time here, I don’t miss it.”
“Things are nice here,” Korvin said. “If they were going bad, I’d probably get homesick more.”
All would jump at the opportunity to visit America after the year is over.
“My host family is invited to my wedding,” Eider said. “I’ll see them again. I already tell them, they’ll see me again.”
Last modified Dec. 8, 2021