Foreign exchange impacts lives of teens


Photo Courtesy of Lyllian Neuberger

Lyllian Neuberger and French exchange student Louise Treuil pose in front of the St. Louis Arch. "The United States is very different from France. Everything is bigger here," said Treuil.

For many, considering living in a different country seems terrifying. However, for those brave enough to try out the experience, foreign exchange can be an exciting way to immerse yourself into a language and culture. So while it may seem scary, the experiences are often more positive than negative.

“The school asked me [about studying abroad],” French exchange student Louise Treuil said. “It’s like a school trip.”

Treuil stayed with WHS junior Lyllian Neuberger for two weeks. While together, they did a lot of activities in that short time, including riding on a train and going to a high school football game.

Wanting to seek out new experiences and first impressions can be a big factor when visiting a new country. A bad impression can leave a mark on any journey. Yet it is rare for the student to be unhappy with their placement. 

“My first impression was that a lot of things are different than in Germany. The houses are made of wood, which I thought was weird, the church is such a big part of people’s lives, which I loved, since I really missed that from Germany. The school is different, since sports and other activities are so important here. In Germany, kids are just excited when they get to go home after classes. Kids in America stay in school for longer than needed,” previous German foreign exchange student Sina Drews said. 

While the customs and expectations of a different country may not follow what students were used to, immersion in a new culture can be important for learning a new language. This immersion, however, also means that foreign exchange students have to leave nearly everything that they know and love behind in their home countries. Fortunately, that’s not necessarily always a bad thing, as host families can become an important part of the exchange experience.

“I’m learning how it is living alone with your family far away,” Italian exchange student Sarah Vanetti said. “I learned that in my heart there is space for another family” 

So while these students must learn to adjust and overcome the unknown, when it comes to recommending the exchange program to others, their response was unanimous.

“This time will change you as a person,” Drews said. “You will always look back at it and smile.”