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From Europe to Baldwin: Exchange students experience new lifestyles

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From Europe to Baldwin: Exchange students experience new lifestyles

Home away from home: Ilona Thiis studies her native language in French class. Baldwin welcomed two foreign exchange students this school year.

Home away from home: Ilona Thiis studies her native language in French class. Baldwin welcomed two foreign exchange students this school year.

Photo by Elizabeth Solenday

Home away from home: Ilona Thiis studies her native language in French class. Baldwin welcomed two foreign exchange students this school year.

Photo by Elizabeth Solenday

Photo by Elizabeth Solenday

Home away from home: Ilona Thiis studies her native language in French class. Baldwin welcomed two foreign exchange students this school year.

Americans are wonderful, though they possibly eat too much food and school here is perhaps too easy.

That’s the assessment of Baldwin’s two foreign exchange students this year: Jan Becker, who comes from Germany, and Ilona Thiis, who comes from France. There are lots of things they both love about life here, but they do notice the calories and the classes.

They agree that food in America is less healthy than what they are used to in Europe.

“The food in America is really unhealthy. Americans put cheese on everything,” Becker, a junior, said.
Thiis, a senior, agrees, but sees the difference in food as a positive.

“The best foods are definitely mac and cheese and Pop-Tarts. We don’t have those foods in France,” Thiis said.

But she pointed out that Americans eat many meals and eat a lot more often than people in France. It is normal in France to only eat during the three meals a day and not at any other time.

Thiis said the French generally respect a schedule while eating meals.

The food in America is really unhealthy. Americans put cheese on everything.”

— Junior Jan Becker

Another large difference between living in America versus Europe is the difficulty of school, they said.

Thiis said American school is much easier than school in France, despite the language barrier. She also noted that there is a positive aspect to that as well.

“My favorite part of living here is definitely school. The academics are less pressure than at home, and I get to meet new people,” Thiis said.

In France, students are not allowed to choose any of their own classes, and they go to school from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thiis said that an AP level class at Baldwin is about as difficult as one of the regular-level classes in France.

Another difference between American and German schools, Becker pointed out, is that many clubs and activities are run through the school in America, rather than through the city, as in Germany.

My favorite part of living here is definitely school. The academics are less pressure than at home, and I get to meet new people.”

— Senior Ilona Thiis

“School for American students is their entire lives. In Germany, we go to school to study and then go home,” Becker said.

One nice effect of that, Becker said, is that school spirit is an important part of American high school, while it is not common in Germany.

 

“People here seem to have a lot of pride in what school they go to. We don’t have that,” Becker said.

The exchange students participate in a yearlong program, and in that time the students have the opportunity to be immersed in American culture and school.

People here seem to have a lot of pride in what school they go to. We don’t have that.”

— Junior Jan Becker

Of the stereotypes about Americans, Thiis said one that seems the most true is that Americans are only concerned about America rather than the rest of the world.

Other than visiting sites in Pittsburgh, Thiis also took a trip to Ohio, and was somewhat surprised by how similar the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio are even though they are separate states.

Thiis plans to visit Washington, D.C., in April and visit America after the exchange program ends, and she hopes to live in America permanently one day. Thiis said she enjoys living in Pittsburgh, although she could not see herself living here permanently.

“The city is beautiful because of all the bridges, and the amount of support for sports teams here makes it a really fun place to live,” Thiis said.

“I have had amazing memories during my program so far. I know I will remember this forever,” Thiis said.

About the Writer
Elizabeth Solenday, Design Editor

Elizabeth is a senior and this is her third year on the Purbalite. She can be found twirling flags in the color guard or singing songs in the musical....

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From Europe to Baldwin: Exchange students experience new lifestyles