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German student came to BEA to hit the books even harder

By Staff | Dec 1, 2013

A scientist. A student. A speaker for model United Nations.

Those are just a few of the hats 16-year-old exchange student Leon Chaudhari wears while home in Berlin, Germany.

He was busy to say the least, and that’s why he felt so lucky to receive a scholarship to come study in America for a year.

“I was out shoveling snow at my home in Berlin when I saw the postman walking toward me,” Chaudhari says.

He knew the day’s mail contained his scholarship letter which told whether or not he would be able to afford to participate in the exchange program for a year.

“I opened the letter and it said there were a lot of great applicants, so I thought I hadn’t been chosen,” he says. “Then I got to the paragraph that said I was selected for the scholarship.”

He says he tossed his shovel in the snow and ran into the house to tell his mother, Sujuata Chaudhari, the great news.

In Berlin, it’s just him and his mother living together and although he gets along quite well with his mom, she has to work a lot.

“But my mom and I we make a great team,” he says.

He says he loves his family which just consists of him, his mother and grandmother but doesn’t necessarily miss them, just because he is really taking in everything he can while he’s in Blue Earth.

Richard and Margaret Sunderlin are his host parents and they live in Elmore.

“I love it here,” Chaudhari says. “I never knew my grandpa and Richard is just like a grandpa to me.”

He also likes the relaxed feeling in Elmore and the Blue Earth area especially at school.

“In Berlin, I go to school from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.,” he says. “Then, I was working for the Department of Physics at the university, doing research and inventing.”

In fact, he had invented a way to calculate when human hairs would turn gray.

“I went on to win national awards for that and got to travel to different cities,” he said.

His interest in science and research also won him a scholarship through Bayer company which brought him to Pittsburg for a science trip.

“There were students from Germany, Thailand, America and there were lots of science groups there,” he says.

He went on that trip just two weeks before he was scheduled to arrive in Blue Earth. So, he flew to Pittsburg, then back to Germany where he stayed for a week. Then he got right back on a plane to meet the Sunderlins, his new host family.

The Sunderlins have hosted many exchange students in the past, and hadn’t been planning to host another this year. But, something about Chaudhari’s letter stood out to them.

“He said that he enjoyed volunteering for a food shelf, working six hours on a Saturday,” Margaret says. “His friends would ask, ‘what do you want to do that for.'”

And it was his response that made the Sunderlins certain that they wanted to host Chaudhari.

“He said at the end of a day like that, he knows he’s done something good for someone else, and that’s a good Christian attitude,” Richard says.

Chaudhari has a passion for helping others as much as he can. He even volunteers with an organization that helps homeless people.

But, while he’s here in America, he admits that he wants to spend some time focusing on himself.

“I’m a hard-core studier,” he says. “In fact, my mother says I probably do it too much.”

He hopes to apply for an Ivy League school here in America and plans to do whatever he has to, in order to be accepted.

So while he’s in Blue Earth this year he is perfecting his English while also learning Spanish in school.

“And in my free time I’m working on Japanese,” Chaudhari adds.

After his year at BEA, he will return to Berlin for his 11th year, then he wants to spend a year studying in Japan before he finishes his 12th year in Germany.

“Then I will apply for colleges in the United States,” he says. “I will be almost 20 then, and that’s pretty common for people in Germany.”

Chaudhari was fairly certain that he wanted to pursue a career in international economics but after his exchange student experience he isn’t so sure anymore.

“I love physics and I’m also very into politics,” he adds. “But I realize I just want to continue improving on my mental ability as much as possible.”

Since he doesn’t have to spend as much time at school here at BEA he has taken to a few hobbies outside of studying like reading, jogging and participating in knowledge bowl and math league.

“I had no time to read when I was in Germany, though,”?Chaudhari says. “But here I am reading a book a day.”

He says reading gives him inspiration but also helps with his English.

“Reading is helping me get the language down, and improving my grammar,” Chaudhari says.

And, when he doesn’t have his nose in a book or studying, he’s just out running around.

“I’ve been going for jogs everyday,” he says.

He enjoys the view in Elmore much more than the view in Berlin.

“Here I can jog around a field and am seeing nature all around me,” he says. “In Berlin, all I see is skyscrapers.”

He was happy that he has time not only to improve on his English, social skills, health and his studies, he was happy to break some stereotypes.

“There are lots of views about America, and coming here you see all the different kinds of people there really are,” Chaudhari explains.

He says just being here is an enormous experience.

“I want to live my life in a way that when I leave this world I can say I helped people and truly knew the world for what it was,” he adds.