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U.S. students weigh in on life in Germany

High Time In the Harzland

I¿m originally from New Jersey, but I¿m currently living in Suhl, in central Germany, with my host family, the Meyers. Most of my classes are still difficult, but I¿ve made friends who help me when I don¿t understand something. I sing in the school choir with my host sister, Jennifer, and it has helped me to make lots of friends. I also enjoy going to the movies - it¿s really funny to see American actors with German voices. I get along great with the Meyers. They want me to see as much of Germany as I can so we plan lots of trips. During our fall break we went hiking in the nearby Harz mountains. I¿ve also made my first attempts at X-country skiing - I seem to be hooked on any kind of skiing now.

Northern Exposure

Germany was my country of choice since I had already studied the language at my high school in Pennsylvania. I was lucky to get a one-year scholarship from the Rotary Club in Grevesmühlen, a northern German town near the Baltic coast. At school, I¿m taking math and physics courses - in Germany you specialize in high school - since I plan to study these subjects in college. I¿ve been playing on the Grevesmühlen FC soccer team, and on our school volleyball team. I¿ve also begun to take piano lessons - the children of my host family have helped me learn to read the notes. One high point was when I was invited to go hunting and was asked to be the »Treiber,« or driver, rustling the wild game out of the woods. My host family also has taken me on a ski trip to nearby Norway. One year, I¿ve found, is actually a very short time, but I¿ve made some great friendships I hope to keep for the rest of my life.

Who¿s your Tanz Girl

When I decided to do an exchange in the Bavarian town of Pocking, I expected to learn German, make friends, miss my family, and have a great year. But I never thought I¿d learn to dance. I could dance before I came, but not like in the old movies my Grandma watches. You know, the »Waltz,« the »Cha Cha Cha,« and so on. I had no idea it is normal in Germany to take dance class in tenth grade. But it is. So it¿s the first day of class and my friends Gaudi and Mutzi ask me, »Who¿s your Tanz girl?« in perfect German-English. ?»Don¿t know, am I supposed to have a dance girl already?« I say, forgetting that »dance girl« is not proper English. So they come back with a cute, embarrassed girl. But there is a problem: the top of her head comes up to the top of my chest. This made the perfect combo for, if not worst, funniest dancers on the floor. But we got through it, and finally made it to the big night. We were great. We also made sure to stay in the middle of the floor where the audience couldn¿t see us. When it was over, my feet hurt really badly. But I was glad I did it.

Island Adventurer

When I first heard I was supposed to spend my exchange-year going to a German high school on a tiny German island called Föhr, in the North Sea, I had big doubts. I was full of suspense when I got off the plane in Hamburg and met my host father for the several-hour trip by car, and then by ferry, to my new home. But with the help of my three host sisters, I quickly settled down. A lot of friends have helped with school. To improve my language skills I took a special German class, and am now taking private lessons. I still make mistakes, but everyone understands me. I thought I might be isolated on the island, but I¿ve been able to travel around a lot of northern Germany and make interesting friends. Föhr has turned out to be a great adventure

Tales of the German ForestWhen Brent Havelka arrived in the Lüneberg forest in northern Germany, he couldn?t speak a word of German - let alone the technical vocabulary he would need for his forestry internship. But that hasn?t slowed down the 19-year-old North Dakota native, who during a four-month Congress-Bundestag Vocational Exchange is planting some 5,000 trees (and learning their German names). Brent, who got the idea to go do an internship in Germany from a high school teacher, had worked on a ranch before and applied to the Congress-Bundestag program for a German work experience related to »animal and range sciences.« So the program paired him up with Dirk Israel, a German forester in the Lüneberg region south of Hamburg. In addition to planting trees, Israel is teaching Brent about German forest ecology and wild life. While working on the private property of one family, Brent became good friends with the owners, who he now calls his German Grandma and Grandpa. He plans to study agriculture in college when he goes back to the states.

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