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Exchange student living his dream

By Staff | Nov 2, 2009

When Alexander Paschmanns was 10 years old, he told his Mom, when he was old enough, he was coming to the United States to stay with Gene and Vicki.

On Aug. 11, 2009, he did just that, becoming the 10th foreign exchange student Eugene and Vicki Boeckman of Elmore have hosted.

The connection between the two families has not only spanned an ocean, but also years. During the 2004-2005 academic year at Blue Earth Area, Alexander’s brother, Johannes, was the foreign exchange student hosted by the Boeckmans.

“It has become our custom,” says Vicki, “to visit the family of our foreign exchange students the summer immediately after they have been here. It was in 2005 we first met Alex on our visit to his home.”

In 2008, Alex made his first trip to the U.S. His objective was simple…to stay with Gene and Vicki.

The Minnesota couple has visited the Paschmannses for the past five years, generally staying with them for a couple days. The bond between the families has grown over the years, so it was only natural for Alex to join his American family this year as their foreign exchange student.

Alex is a native of Schwalmtal, Germany. Located near the Dutch border, Alex says Schwalmtal, population 9,000, is a small town about an hour from Cologne. It is also quite close to Dusseldorf. Schwalmtal, he says, is very similar to here, since it is primarily an agricultural area. Like Blue Earth, there is some industry, but nothing on a large scale.

His father, Thomas, works with investments and his mother, Monika, is employed at a church parish office. As for his 21-year-old brother, Johannes, Alex says he recently completed his studies in Germany.

Currently a junior at Blue Earth Area, Alex says his favorite subject, so far, is Spanish. He also is registered for pre-calculus, orchestra, choir and communications. This fall, he was a defensive back and a kicker for the junior varsity football team. Next spring, he plans to play tennis for BEA.

“I discovered I really like football,” say Alex. “I had only played it as a video game before.”

Another first Alex has enjoyed while living in Minnesota is carving his first-ever jack o’lantern.

“We don’t celebrate Halloween in Germany,” he adds.

His hobbies include playing tennis and the violin. He also enjoys the bass guitar and would be playing in a band if he were home.

“I like music in general,” says Alex before adding he also enjoys soccer with his friends and playing table tennis.

Alex has had the opportunity to travel a great deal in his lifetime. He says he has been to Italy, Greece, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Belgium and Portugal.

“I liked Portugal the best,” admits Alex. “Landscape-wise it is amazing! I liked the little bays, the beach and rocks and seeing the Atlantic Ocean.”

One of the things the Boeckmans have learned about hosting a foreign exchange student is how much the students enjoy seeing this country. As a result, they have already taken Alex to New York City, Denver and San Francisco. Before he returns home, they will probably take him to Florida, Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon.

After studying English for six years in his German school, Alex is extremely fluent in the language. He also speaks French and German and currently is enjoying his Spanish course. He says having studied Latin for six years has helped him greatly in mastering languages.

When he resumes his studies next August as a 12th grade student, he says he will be studying the German, English and Latin languages, in addition to taking math, social studies, geography, chemistry, physics, physical education and general music. His school day will begin at about 8 a.m.

Unlike the class schedule at BEA, Alex says German students have different classes scheduled for different days, thus making their school day vary in length. The German school schedule resembles our college format. As for sports, he says these are done through clubs outside of the school.

Since he will have two grades to complete upon his return to Schwalmtal, he hasn’t given much thought to what career direction he will take. He is confident he will further his education, but he is not sure where he will do this or what he will pursue.

He is enjoying his time here so much, he says he has had no problems with homesickness. His philosophy of participating in as much as he can…with activities, people and even food has probably helped with his adjustment here.

He has discovered the foods Vicki makes are very similar to what he would normally eat at home. Since he likes just about everything, he confesses he is not a difficult person to prepare food for. However, he has noted there are many more fast-food places in America than in his homeland.

As for clothing, he says it is a little cheaper here than in Germany. He is familiar with many of the name brands since they are carried in his country as well. He is surprised though by the number of T-shirts and sweatshirts Americans wear featuring logos or school emblems. Since German schools do not offer sports, there is no need for this.

Climate-wise, Alex says Minnesota’s summer temperatures are similar to those in Germany. Sometimes it gets to 90 degrees there, too. However, they do not have the high humidity.

He says he is looking forward to our winter, as he has never experienced a ‘white Christmas.’ He adds it generally doesn’t snow much in Germany and the temperatures, on average, range about 25-32 degrees above zero. The need for a snowmobile is pretty much unheard of in his country.

“Germany has an amazing metro system,” says Vicki. “The buses go to every little town and the trains go everywhere.”

Alex agrees, but says he mainly rides his bike to get to his needed destinations, since everything is so close to his home and he does not have a driver’s license. German youth are allowed to drink when they are 16, but cannot obtain their driver’s license until they are 18, he explains.

“Because teens are allowed to drink and go to the club when they are 16, we have a growing techno-scene in Germany,” adds Alex. He further explains the theory behind the early drinking age is for youth to experience how alcohol affects one’s abilities before getting behind a steering wheel.

Music is similar, too. Alex says they listen to a lot of pop and rock music in his town. His personal favorite is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

As for popular makes of cars in his area of western Germany, Alex says they are the BMW and mini-Cooper, both of which his family drive.

When Alex left Germany, he says gasoline was down from a high of about $10 to about $8 per gallon and the American dollar was way down in value as well.

“Kids are kids and students are students all over the world,” says Alex who wants to be treated like every other student at BEA. Hearing him speak, no one would guess he is a foreign exchange student.

Indeed, Alex has adapted well to life in this country. But, one must remember, since he was 10 he said he was coming to the United States to stay with Gene and Vicki.