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German student loves decorating for Christmas

By Staff | Dec 5, 2008

Sandor Hahn with his host parents, Ken and Jean Wessels.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Ken Wessels’ residence thanks to the handiwork of their German foreign exchange student, Sandor Hahn.

Hahn, in his enthusiasm for holiday decorating, has filled his host family’s front yard with various lawn displays and has strung colored lights to outline their home’s rooftop.

“In Germany,” he explains, “we just put a few lights on the bushes.”

A native of Pritzwalk Germany, Hahn’s home is about 20 miles from the Elbe River and less than one hour from Berlin.

“It looks a lot like this area,” says Hahn as he describes his homeland.

Even though the climate is also similar, Hahn was surprised the weather has stayed warm for such a long time here.

Another similarity he notes is the annual snowfall amounts.

“It has been a long time since we have had a white Christmas,” says Hahn. “I am really hoping for one here,” he adds.

A snowboard enthusiast, Hahn hopes to travel to Mankato this winter to indulge in this activity at Mount Kato. If he were home, he would go to the Snow Funpark in Wittenberg.

For Germans who prefer skiing over snowboarding, Hahn states that the Alps are just a mere five hours away from his home.

While he awaits colder temperatures and more snow, Hahn is kept busy attending Blue Earth Area High School. A Senior, Hahn says he will have grades 12 and 13 to complete once he returns home.

“My future plans include going to a university,” says Hahn. “If you have a good education, you will be able to get a good job and earn good money in Germany,” he states.

“I have to collect credits in chemistry, German, English, music, economics, physical education, math, history, computer and Russian before I can graduate,” he says. None of the classes he is taking here will count toward his country’s graduation requirements.

“Our educational system is different from here,” he says. “In grades seven through ten, Germans have 17 different classes they must take each week. Once we are in grades 11 through 13 we get a choice and can take ten or 11 classes.”

Class periods in his hometown are 45 minutes in length.

“I like chemistry, economics, sports and music at home,” he says, “but here my favorite classes are world cultures, choir and fitness improvement.”

The biggest difference Hahn notes about the educational systems is how easy school is here compared to his homeland.

“I like it because you have sports teams in your school,” says Hahn. “In Germany, you have to look for a club and pay to participate,” he explains.

He also likes the fact school teams here are supported by fans from the community. He is learning this firsthand, since he is on the Buc basketball team.

Hahn also plays in the band.

“I like playing the drums and sports in general, but mainly basketball and snowboarding,” says Hahn of his interests.

Born on January 21, 1991 to Torsten and Andrea Hahn, Sandor has one older brother, Oliver.

“I got interested in becoming a foreign exchange student through the stories told by my brother,” says Hahn. “He was a foreign exchange student two years ago in Missouri.”

“Our parents support us in anyway they can,” says Hahn of the sacrifices his parents have made to enable their two sons to travel to the United States.

Hahn’s father works in Denmark with a construction firm as a welder. His mother is a nurse in Pritzwalk.

“My hometown of 12,000 people is very small according to German standards,” says Hahn.

He also says most Germans live in larger houses built to last for at least a hundred years.

“People in the U.S. move more,” observes Hahn who adds this is why the houses are not built to last as long as they are in Europe.

As for stores, he says they only have malls in the larger cities of Germany.

“We have to go to many stores to buy what you could get in a Wal-Mart here,” he says.

Also, the price of items in Germany is much higher than what Americans pay he says.

“We are about 20 miles from the closest McDonald’s,” says Hahn. He adds his family eats healthier foods and doesn’t eat as much ‘fast food’ as Americans do.

One of Hahn’s favorite U.S. foods is apple crisp.

“Our German bread is better than the bread you get here and so is our German chocolate and beer,” adds Hahn.

“Refrigerators in Germany are smaller,” says Jean Wessels. “This is partly because of the cost of electricity there, but also because they do not stock up groceries like we do,” she explains. “They buy just enough food to last a couple of days,” she says.

Hahn’s family has three cars in Germany. He explains that practically everyone in Germany has a car, but few have pickups because his is not an agricultural area.

“We also travel by subway and trains,” explains Hahn who has journeyed to England and Denmark.

“I like to travel with my friends,” says Hahn. “When I’m with my friends I like to go to parties, watch DVDs and go to Berlin shopping,” he adds.

“I miss my German family, friends and food,” says Hahn as he explains how beautiful his Germany is, how friendly the people there are and how tasty the food is.

When he returns to Germany, he states he is not taking country and western music back with him. He prefers rock and hip hop.

Ken Wessels says he is sure Sandor Hahn will stay with them until his visa expires on June 30th, as he is in no hurry to return