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Parents hesitant to send German daughter abroad

By Staff | Nov 1, 2010

German exchange student Mimi Matejka sits with her host family, the Loges. Above from left to right, Mark, Mimi, Maxton, Phoebe and Angie.

While there was no question in Miriam Matejka’s mind that she wanted to become a foreign exchange student, her parents were singing a different tune.

“I think they thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to lose my daughter,'” Miriam, better known as Mimi, explains.

Originally having given their daughter a firm no, Mimi’s parents later warmed up to the idea as long as she promised to contact them on a regular basis.

“I think they miss me very much,”?Mimi says, admitting she also misses people back home and was kind of scared she’d lose contact with some of her friends.

Mimi comes to the U.S. from Tübingen, a city of about 85,000 in southern Germany located near the larger and more commonly known city of Stuttgart.

There are just about no similarities when moving from a heavily populated region to small-town Blue Earth.

Specifically, the amount of time spent in a car getting from place to place came off as a bit strange to the foreigner.

“In Germany, everything is so close,” Mimi explains.

Now that she’s been living with her host family, Mark and Angie Loge, since August, Mimi has become familiarized with a more rural lifestyle.

Being first-timers in the foreign exchange experience, the Loges thought it would be good to start out with someone who would only be around for half the school year. However, they’ve come to love the process and realize they don’t want Mimi to leave.

Aside from welcoming the temporary daughter, the Loges have two children of their own, 7-year-old Phoebe and 4-year-old Maxton.

Even at age 4, the youngest Loge knows how to demonstrate “Minnesota nice” qualities. However, since he doesn’t grasp the concept of many languages and assumes everyone speaks either English or Spanish, Maxton greeted Mimi with a friendly “hola” upon her arrival. Not exactly a word from her native tongue, but the mistake resulted in a funny anecdote to share when she gets back home.

While Mimi is becoming more worldly, Angie hopes the experience will also teach her own children about other cultures.

“Just because she’s from somewhere different doesn’t mean we don’t have things in common,” Angie says.

What Mimi was most looking forward to about being in the U.S., was discovering whether the notions Germans have about America were true. She’s come to the conclusion that, as expected, everything really is bigger here — the people, the roads, the food portions.

School and classmates were other things she was increasingly curious and excited about.

“Meeting all those new people — crazy Americans!” Mimi says, referencing the way U.S. high schoolers are portrayed in movies she’s seen.

Now a U.S. student herself, Mimi has been able to compare Blue Earth Area High School to her school back home.

“Our subjects, they aren’t that much fun,” she says of classes in Germany.

Pointing out the lack of school sports teams where she’s from, Mimi thinks it’s “kind of sad because we don’t have that high school spirit.”

Without sports, students in Germany focus solely on learning. Following middle school, they are placed in one of three different types of schools based on their academic performance. Mimi was put in the highest level, referred to as gymnasium, but will unfortunately be a year behind her other classmates when she returns home. Since she receives no credit for being abroad, Mimi will not only experience the 11th grade in America, but will repeat it in Germany next year.

Having been taught more than one language throughout her life, she’s been asked which language she dreams in. Realizing she really didn’t know, Mimi figured if she mastered a language well enough, she would speak it in her dreams. Two and a half months into Mimi’s stay with the Loges, Angie heard the girl talking in her sleep, and it wasn’t German she was speaking.

Mimi was dreaming in English, reassuring her that her knowledge of the language wasn’t too shabby.

Aside from knowing multiple languages, Mimi has also impressed her host family by being so outgoing and independent, particularly since she’s willingto travel to other countries completely alone.

“I have to constantly remind myself she’s 16,” Angie says.

Since Mimi is only here for another couple of months, she won’t experience much of the frigid winters, but one of her most favorite things to remember about Minnesota is the piece of nature that gives the state its infamous slogan.

“From the plane, I could see all those lakes!” says Mimi, who also enjoyed the lakes at a much closer proximity when she went camping and tubing.

“Here I’m really, really busy. I never get bored.”

Besides going on short trips in Minnesota — to Brainerd, Stillwater and Minneapolis, to name a few — Mimi was also taken on vacation to Mesa, Ariz., in mid-October.

“I wanted her to see something other than a corn field,” Angie jokes.

Following winter break, Mimi will no longer attend BEA High School, and will instead relocate much closer to home to finish her foreign exchange student experience in France.

Perhaps by the end of next semester she’ll be dreaming in French, too.