German exchange student lives in Elmore
This past August, the city of Elmore welcomed a world traveler to their close-knit community. Julius Holzer, 16, of Stuttgart, Germany, is getting his first taste of rural American life. He is a foreign exchange student who currently attends Blue Earth Area High School.
Holzer’s main goals on this adventure are to experience American culture from a different perspective and improve upon his English speaking skills. Prior to his trip to the United States, Holzer has studied English in school for six years.
Although Holzer has experience studying English, and grew up with his parents also knowing English, he admits interacting with fellow students can be challenging at times.
“Sometimes they ask me to repeat myself because they didn’t understand me and sometimes I don’t understand their questions, but they have been very nice,” Holzer said.
The opportunity to study abroad is made possible by two private companies; the Carl Duisberg Centren and the Northwest ServicesPEACE (Promoting Educational and Cultural Exchanges) Program. These companies work in conjunction with one another to bridge the cultural gap for exchange students traveling between the United States and Germany.
As for Elmore residents Gene and Vicki Boeckman, the married couple of 46 years have opened up their home to the bright exchange student from southwest Germany. Serving as the host family, Vicki Boeckman explains she also works closely with the Northwest Services. This unique situation allows Boeckman to assist in the process of matching students with host families.
“I’m lucky because I do both; I’m a host and I’m also a representative for Northwest Services,” Vicki Boeckman said. “We saw his profile and we thought he would be a good fit.
“We are the real lucky ones because we get to have the kids here with us and we have the opportunity to show them what it’s like to be a part of another culture,” Boeckman added.
When it comes to immersing himself in American culture, Holzer has taken up a unique interest in professional football. Now an avid Minnesota Vikings fan, Holzer already has had an opportunity to visit U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for a Vikings home game.
Despite knowing very little about American football before his arrival to the United States, his new favorite players are wide receiver Adam Thielen and safety Harrison Smith. Holzer believes American football offers much more excitement than soccer, the brand of football he was used to seeing.
“In soccer, you often wait for a long time until something happens,” Holzer explained. “In American football, there’s always action because there’s always something happening when teams try to get closer to the end zone.”
Watching NFL action was the inspiration Holzer needed to try a new after-school activity. The eager exchange student decided to try out for the Blue Earth Area Buccaneers and has found his niche as a field goal kicker.
“Being on the football team is a nice experience because it is a sport I’ve never played before,” Holzer said.
Although football is a violent sport involving plenty of collisions, Holzer’s kicking duties keep him out of harm’s way for the most part. This unique perspective on one of America’s favorite activities has served as an eye-opening experience.
“In Germany, most people don’t know that much about football; they think it’s just everybody jumping on top of each other,” Holzer laughs. “When I came here it was different than what I thought before, so it was interesting to see how it really works.”
As it turns out, the Boeckmans are no stranger to the hosting experience. In fact, Holzer is the 19th exchange student hosted by the Boeckmans.
Of those 19 exchange students, all but one have been from Germany. Boeckman explained she and her husband decided if they were to visit the students later on, it would be more convenient to select students from one region.
Not only has this been a great learning experience for Holzer, but the Boeckmans have also gained a different perspective on being part of a multi-cultural household. Vicki Boeckman has grown to appreciate the German culture she has been exposed to through her time as a host.
“German culture is much more relaxed, they tend to value their employees and businesses much more than we do,” Boeckman said. “You can go to a town the size of Elmore in Germany, and they’re going to have everything available right in town.”
Holzer is scheduled to return to Germany in June. Before he leaves, the Boeckmans have mapped out an impressive itinerary for their exchange student to see as much of the United States as possible.
In particular, Holzer is most excited to travel east during Thanksgiving break and see New York City for the first time.
“In Germany, everyone knows New York, it is the most popular place that people want to travel to,” Holzer said. “Los Angeles will be very exciting too because that is also a popular place in the United States.”