Exchange Students: High School Life Here And Abroad

RENO, NV - That might have appeared to be any group of high school students we encountered walking the halls of Galena High.

Typical teenagers? Well, not quite.

A couple of them are from other countries. The other four are local kids.

Can't tell which is which? That's at least part of the idea.

What they have or will have in common is a great experience, perhaps a life-changing adventure.

Meret Mugeli is from Switzerland. Antonia Schmidt is from Germany.

Both were brought here through Rotary International's Youth Exchange Program and are completing a school year at Galena.

They admit there have been surprises.

"How much you say is true about the U-S," says Meret. "Like high school is really like the movies."

She means that in a good way.

Both say they were also surprised by the scale of things here.

"Everything is so much bigger." says Antonia. "The stores are so big and in Germany the houses have different levels and here everything is flat because they have so much room to use."

They found other differences. School days are longer, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. r longer, and perhaps more serious back home. No pep rallies. In fact, no high school sports.

"I still don't understand American football," laughs Antonia.

But it's been a rich experience. Learning and living in another culture.

Something Erin Kinsinger is anxious to experience first hand. She'll be leaving for a year in Mexico in August. She can't wait.

"I'm a little nervous about adjusting, but I think I'll do well. I've always been good about adjusting to new situations.

Grant Haley will be headed for Chile.

"I think it's a good way to learn and it's a way to branch out and meet people and see how I can grow as a person over time."

They'll be living with families during that year, just as Meret and Antonia have been doing here.

"It was a learning experience for us as well," says Julie Valentine who hosted Antonia for a few months. We learned a lot about their culture."

"I think it was the greatest experience of our lives," says Lynn Johnson, who hosted Meret. "I'd recommend it to anyone."


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