F oreign exchange students seem to come and go from school districts just as graduates do.
But the end of the school year for some may just be the beginning for others.
This is certainly true of Germany’s Carolin Oswald, who spent the 2007-2008 academic year in the Blue Earth Area School system as a foreign exchange student.
To the delight of her friends, Oswald arrived at International Airport on Dec. 21 to spend the holidays in Blue Earth before catching her return flight on Jan. 8. While here, she has been staying with the Chuck and Carol More family.
“I liked the people so much in the Blue Earth area and had missed them, so I wanted to return,” she says of her visit.
“My parents were okay with my returning to see my friends here,” she adds.
And see friends she has.
“I have spent most of my time hanging out with friends,” she says. “I had missed them so much. I also have been snowmobiling and had a three-day Christmas with the More family. They have a large family and that was really fun for me,” Oswald adds.
A native of Dettingen/ Erms Germany, Oswald is the daughter of Stefan and Birgit Oswald.
“My father is a computer specialist and my mother is a nurse,” says Oswald. “I also have one older sister, Alina, who is 20 years old,” she says.
Upon her return to her homeland, she will have 1 1/2 years of schooling to complete before she can further her education at a university.
“I have been doing a lot of studying in my school since returning from the U.S.,” Oswald says. “I am taking biology, lots of math classes, French, English and our German language. It is a must to study German,” she adds.
“My favorite class at Blue Earth was biology because of the great teacher, Travis Armstrong,” Oswald says.
While staying with her host family last year, Joseph and Amanda Ewest and their daughters, Ally and Nina, Oswald also participated in tennis and track.
“I had never been out for tennis, so that was interesting,” she recalls.
Oswald still is involved in track three times per week on a year-round basis in Germany.
“My best event is the high jump,” says Oswald. “I’m not sure of the measurement here, but in the metric system I have jumped 155 meters.” Pondering some more, she adds, “I think it would be about 5-feet-3 here.”
Oswald also enjoys playing volleyball with a group of people in her hometown.
Other activities the young German enjoys are reading, seeing movies and hanging out with her friends.
She will miss the New Year’s observance in her hometown Dettingen/Erms this year. This community has a population of about 10,000 people and is about two to three hours south of Munich if one were traveling by car.
“We have a really large fireworks display which we watch from a huge hill,” she says. She explained people give contributions towards the fireworks, but a portion of the money is always donated to an individual with a special need. Each year a different recipient is financially helped.
Prior to the fireworks display, Oswald says her family always celebrates with a large dinner. They then go outdoors at about 10 p.m. and await with great anticipation the fireworks and the new year.
“In the north, my country is more flat. It has the sea and the coast there. Where I live in the south, it is more hilly and we have the Alps,” she says. “Wherever you go in Germany it is a little different,” Oswald adds.
“German people are very open-minded and friendly,” she says. “We welcome everyone.”
Regarding jobs, Oswald says her homeland is in pretty good shape, primarily because they are the number one exporter of cars and have the major appliance supplier, Bosch, based there.
With the U.S. inauguration fast approaching, Oswald states, “90 percent of all Germans wanted Barack Obama to win the election because he stands for change. In Germany, people are also very democratic. Obama is young, full of energy and ready to change the way government has been run.” She adds, “it will be interesting to see how the relationship between countries will be.”
Oswald’s future plans include attending a university for five or six years studying sports management.
“I really would like to go to university in Munich, but I also would like to attend a U.S. school for one semester,” she says of her college plans. The deciding factor would be the cost.
“It costs only about 500 euros per semester, or $700 U.S., for us to attend a university in Germany,” she says. The low cost is due to the fact the rest is paid by the state and through taxes.
For extra spending money, Oswald works in a factory 10 minutes from her home, boxing soap. She works eight hours per day, five days per week during her school breaks. These consist of six weeks in the summertime, three weeks in December and two weeks in March.
The region she lives in is known for its textile industry.
“We get lots of tourists who want to shop for our textiles,” she says.
Citing other differences between the Blue Earth area and her homeland, Oswald says even though they have the Erms River flowing through her hometown, the people do not go fishing as much as they do here. Also, they do not get as much snow, so they do not snowmobile, as we do in Minnesota.
“Here everything is flat and the roads are wide open. I had trouble adjusting to my country with its narrow streets and cities boxed in with hills,” she says.
Oswald is a seasoned traveler. In addition to the United States, she has journeyed to Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Tunisia, Italy and Switzerland. She has been to Greece a lot, as well as to France, since it is only about three hours driving distance from her home.
While a student at Blue Earth, Oswald earned her driver’s license.
“It cost me a little over $300 here,” she says, “but in Germany I would have had to pay about $1,700,” she says.
As her departure date nears, Oswald hopes to visit the high school.
“I am looking forward to sitting in the gym again and am really excited to go to a basketball game one more time,” she says.
“Being a foreign exchange student was a great experience that really enriched my life,” Oswald says. “It made me more independent and gave me a lot of self-confidence.”
“I had my doubts, but everyone was so helpful here. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” she says.
“I am really thankful for being in Blue Earth again,” says Oswald. “Coming back was really great and I will return again as soon as possible,” she adds.