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German outdoorsman joins Wessels family

By Staff | Nov 23, 2009

Jonas with his host family

Jonas Hamperl is a German youth who loves France, wants to visit Colorado and someday travel through northern Europe.

He is one of two foreign exchange students Ken and Jean Wessels of Blue Earth are hosting this school year.

“At first, I wanted to go to South Africa for my foreign study, but my mother didn’t want me to, so I chose America,” says Jonas Hamperl. Like his Taiwanese friend and housemate at the Wessels’ residence,Victor, he is affiliated with the E.F. Foundation for foreign study based out of Boston.

A classmate of his, whose brother had previously been a foreign exchange student in the United States, was going to apply, so Hamperl decided last November to tackle the paperwork as well.

The rest is history…East meets West. Hamperl made the trip to the U.S. in August. Not only has he learned about the American culture since then, but also that of his fellow boarder from Taiwan.

Jonas with his family in Germany

Born on July 16, 1992 in Freiberg, a city of about 45,000 people in the eastern part of Germany, Hamperl says his hometown is located at the foot of Erzgebirge or the Ore Mountains. Founded by free miners in the 12th century, it once was a very influential and rich silver mining center.

Located near Dresden, Hamperl explains “frei” means free and “berg” stands for mountains. Freiberg, he says, is no longer an important silver mining area, but it does contain the oldest university in the world which studies metallurgy. Therefore, it not only serves as a resource area for students, but his city has also become a popular attraction for tourists.

Instead of silver mining, he says the city is now recognized for its usage of solar power. In fact, two of Freiberg’s largest industries, Solar World and Wacker, are both involved with solar energy. They make computer chips and harness sunlight for energy purposes.

Another little industry in his town, he adds, are the handmade decorative items made from wood.

“We have a lot of stuff made out of wood…angels and even Santa Claus figures,” he says. “In my town we don’t have all the lighted lawn or rooftop decorations like you have here.”

Always the outdoorsman, Hamperl not only has helped decorate the Wessels’ roof with reindeer, but he has also enjoyed helping with all the yardwork.

Hamperl’s Freiberg family includes father, Andreas, a geologist who studied at the historic Technische University at Bergakademie Freiberg, mother, Cornelia, works as a nurse in endoscopy at the Freiberg hospital, and one sister, 15-year old, Laura.

“We have a variety of landscape in my country,” says Hamperl. “We have the Alps that are about four hours by car from us and we also have a lot of flat land.

He says his family generally travels to the Alps once a year to do some skiing. They also spend quite a bit of time at their cabin which sits about 15 miles outside of Freiberg.

“My family lives in the bottom apartment of a four-story complex,” says Hamperl. “Each story contains one entire apartment.

Even though his family owns their own car, an Audi, he says they have no garage and must park it on the street.

“Most Germans make use of our mass transit system and don’t drive cars,” he adds.

Having obtained his driver’s permit in September, Hamperl is glad gas prices here are much lower than the $8.00 per gallon he is used to in his homeland.

Because he is not old enough to drive in Germany, Hamperl says he enjoys either walking or riding one of the two bikes he owns to get to his various destinations. He has one mountain bike and one touring bike.

This past summer, the outdoorsman and adventurer went with two friends on a 300 mile bike trip to the East Sea.

“It took us four days,” he recalls. “We slept in a tent and had only the necessary things with us.” Unfortunately, he says, they were met with rainy weather and wound up returning by bus to their homes instead of retracing their 300 mile ride.

Besides the bike trip, Hamperl has traveled with his family extensively through Europe. He has been to France eight or 10 times in his life.

“I like the language, food, warm weather in the south and the coast of the Mediterranean region,” he says of France.

In addition to France, he has traveled to Austria, the Czech Republic (close to his hometown), Spain, Island of Tenerife (largest of the Canary Islands off northwest Africa), the Greek side of Cyprus, Italy and Switzerland.

Besides biking, Hamperl also enjoys playing field hockey in addition to teaching seven- and eight-year- old boys the sport.

Since his school of about 2,000 students, Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium, is only a 20 minute walk from his home, he doesn’t mind the fact his classes begin at 7:20 a.m.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.