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Exchange students enjoying life here


AT HOME IN THE USA — German Exchange Students Celia Ilisch, Julia Kanngiesser and Jana Elin-Bland are enjoying their time as NRHEG High School students. (Star Eagle photo by Jessica Lutgens)


Staff Writer

Germany’s the word at NRHEG High School this year. It’s also where new students Jana Elin-Brand, Julia Kanngiesser, and Celia Ilisch call home – or rather, “first home.”

These three girls, all in 11th grade, are part of the Foreign Exchange Student program for the 2013-2014 school year, and they’ve adjusted well to their second home. Friendly and funny, they are a joy to meet.

Here’s your chance to get to know these ladies, learn about their experiences, and get a small glimpse of what it’s like to live in a new country.

Jana lives with her host family Terry and Wendi Hansen. In her hometown of Schwendi are her parents, Bjoern and Cordula Brand, and her brother Elias. She speaks German and English, and will be learning either Spanish or Italian next year. Her hobbies include scrapbooking, horseback riding, kickboxing and volleyball. In school, she’s involved in FFA, volleyball, choir, wrestling stats, and softball. Some of her favorites are: food – veggie omelet; book – Harry Potter; TV show – The Bachelor.

Celia’s host family is John and Michelle Mulder. From Berlin, she has one sister, Lara Ilisch, and parents Romana Ilisch and Yan Tonnaett. She speaks German and English. For fun, Celia enjoys being with friends and sports, and at school she’s active in volleyball, band, softball and choir. Her favorites include: food – spaghetti; book – Tschick; TV show – The Little Couple; band – Falling in Reverse.

Julia’s hometown of Duderstadt is home to her brother, Jan, and parents Elmar and Tanja Kanngiesser. Her host family includes Jacquie Deml-Mauseth, Jeremy Mauseth; Haley, Lawren and Amanda Deml. She speaks German, English and Latin. Her hobbies consist of gymnastics, hanging out with friends, and listening to music, and in school she is involved in basketball and band. Some of Julia’s favorites are: food – pizza and noodles; book – Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz; TV show – Navy CIS; band/musical artist – Linkin Park, Macklemore.

The following questions were given to all of the girls to answer:

• How is America different than your home country?

Jana – In the south [of Germany] we have many hills and mountains. The school system is completely different than in Germany.

Celia – Winter is colder with more snow, everything is bigger, you drive everywhere, food and school [are different], and almost everyone has pets.

Julia – America is much more spacious and everything is bigger.

• What do you like/dislike about America?

Jana – I really like the school, how the teams band together and the teachers have a good relationship with the students. What I really love is the activities after school.

Celia – I like the school; I don’t like to drive everywhere.

Julia – I like the people, the kindness, the teachers, school and food. I really like it here.

• Is America different than you expected?

Jana – I expected to have to eat a lot of fast food, like every day at McDonald’s.

Celia – I didn’t have real expectations, but I was impressed that everything is so big.

Jana – I didn’t expect anything, I just wanted to make my own experience. If you don’t have expectations you can’t be disappointed.

• What is the strangest/funniest experience you’ve had here?

Jana – Every day I have a great experience here, but sometimes people ask questions which make me smile, like when they ask, “Do you have ice cream in Germany?” or “Do you have a television there?”

Celia – When the temperature dropped to -50° F wind chill and we went outside to make ice bubbles.

Julia – I was asked if we have bananas, TV and Internet in Germany. My funniest experience was the Macklemore concert, to which I went with my host sisters, and the band trip to California.

• How is school different here than in Germany, and what kind of activities were you involved in?

Jana – We have three different “high schools” where we go after 4 Grad. It depends on your grades, how good or bad you are and where you can go. On the lowest level you can graduate after 9 years; the middle, after 10 years, and the highest after 12-13 years. You need the highest [level of education] so that you can go to study, like college. If you have the lowest [level of education] you can go to school again after your graduation so that you can go to college later.

Celia – School in America is easier. In Germany my school day was longer. The weeks were always the same, but we had different classes every day and we couldn’t choose our classes. We don’t really have school activities. I was in the band, but I was at a music school.

Julia – We have three different kinds of school, and they have different levels of difficulty. School here is less difficult. We don’t have the same classes every day; we have 12-15 different classes per week depending on the grade and semester. I was in band. No athletic activities are school based, they’re community based.

• What about Germany do you think would surprise Americans the most?

Jana – Many people asked me if we, in Germany, really drink a lot of beer, [like with] every meal and during the day. We drink beer, but not that much and not with every meal.

Celia – People don’t drive with a car everywhere. You walk, use trains, buses, subways, etc., and you have to wait until you’re 18 to get your driving license.

Julia – They probably would be surprised how expensive gas and everything else is.

• What made you decide to participate in the Foreign Exchange Student Program?

Jana – I met a friend when I was 14, he [had gotten] back a few weeks before and told me about his experience, and I was so fascinated that I wanted to go, too! My parents first thought that after a week I would never think about that again, but I held on to my wish until I was 16 and started to fill out applications on my own.

Celia – Since I was 10 years old I wanted to have one school year in a foreign country. My mom asked me in 10th grade if I still wanted to do it and I’m glad I did, it is a great experience.

Julia – I wanted to experience the American culture and country and of course, improve my English. It was the best decision I’ve made so far.

• What have you learned so far as an Exchange Student?

Jana – It is so much fun to learn [about] other cultures and to share my culture with the people here.

Celia – You can find friends everywhere in the world.

Julia – I have improved my English and social skills.

• Would you visit America again?

Jana – I already have plans that I will come back to visit my second home. My wish would be to bring my mom, dad and brother with me to show them where I lived for 10 months.

Celia – I would visit America again to travel to other places and see my friends.

Julia – Of course I want to visit America again and visit my host family!

Jana also commented, “I am really happy to come to a town like New Richland. The people are really open and helpful. Before I knew that I [would] come to Minnesota, I hoped not to go to Alaska, so what should I say now? I had the coldest winter in my life, and a lot of snow! [Which] I kind of enjoyed. I’m really happy to have parents who let my wish come true!”

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