BELMONT — Belmont High School hosted 16-year-old Helen Geissler, a foreign exchange student from Berlin, Germany, during the fall semester.
Helen decided to come to the U.S. because she wanted to improve on her English skills, and the culture intrigued her.
She lived with her host family, Patty and Randy Pratt, just outside of Belmont. The Pratts have three children: Charlie 9, Ben 6, and Caitlyn 4, who are all home schooled.
In Berlin she lives in an apartment with her father Egbert, mother Brit, and little sister Pia, who is 12.
Helen took algebra II, chemistry, English 11, U.S. History, health, personal fitness, and guitar. When I asked Helen what her favorite subject was at Belmont, she replied, “Lunch, of course.”
In Belmont Helen took the good old yellow school bus to school every morning. In Germany she takes a train back and forth from school every day; it’s a 20 minute trip.
The school day in Germany is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., just like in Belmont. Their school year is also like Belmont’s, from mid-August to the beginning of June.
“It’s a lot different from school here in Wisconsin,” she said. “In some ways it is much more strict, but in other ways a lot less strict especially with the dress code.”
She said in Germany no one dresses up but no one ever wears sweatpants, like the usual fashion at Belmont High School.
Helen said she really enjoyed school here because the students are very open and talkative. However, she missed the ability to just go outside and walk to wherever she needs to go like she could in the big city.
When I asked Helen what the biggest difference in the schools are, she said, “The teaching technique is very different.”
She said they still use blackboards for everything in Germany, so she finds the smart boards in Belmont pretty cool. She also said it’s harder to get access to the computers over there unless she’s in the computer lab.
Helen is involved in extracurricular activities in Germany. She is in a religion club and gymnastics, and she takes private piano lessons. Helen was also involved in extracurricular activities at Belmont, including girls basketball and playing her guitar at concerts.
Helen’s favorite things to do in Germany are reading and shopping with her friends. While she was in the U.S., she and her host family had many great times together. When I asked Helen what her favorite activities were, she replied, “The Harlem Globetrotters were a blast! Also I really enjoyed the Thanksgiving party and meal we had.”
Helen said the big difference between the U.S. and home is the meals. In Germany their main meal is lunch, and for supper it’s usually something light and cold, like bread, cheese, and sausage. Helen’s favorite food in America was a casserole that Patty makes of noodles and chicken.
Helen returned to 10th grade when she went back to Germany at the end of January. There she is studying math, chemistry, biology, physics, German, English, French, geography, history, ethics, physical education, and informatics. Helen’s favorite subject there is math, and that is what she hopes to go into after she graduates.
Helen really enjoyed her time here, and she had a lot of fun new experiences.