Interview with an Exchange Student

Anja Vogt, Writer

As you may know, we have several exchange students here at Obama this year. They come from all over the world just to get first-hand experience in a typical American school. Though this is an exciting time, it can also be very nerve wracking and scary. I got the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of our own exchange students, and gained a lot of insight about the topic.


Q: So, what is your name? Where to you come from originally?

A: My name is Franka Ferlemann, and I’m from Münster. It’s in the northwest of Germany.


Q: What grade are you in?

A: In Germany I’m in 10th grade, and here I’m in 11th grade.


Q: I don’t think a lot of people know there’s a difference! What is your school in Germany called?

A: It’s called the Pascal Gymnasium.


Q: How long are you staying here?

A: So, I came at the start of the second semester, and I’m staying until the end of the school year.


Q: What are some differences that you notice between Pittsburgh and Münster?

A: Let me think about that. I would say, everything is bigger here, and people are friendlier here. They’re more open. And the school is different, and the whole school system and how it works is just a big change. Also, milk cartons here, at the store, are giant! The ones in Germany are so much smaller, and I feel like the big ones will go bad because there’s so much milk to drink in a short time! In general, I prefer a lot of stuff about America, but some stuff is just a really big change and it’s weird to me.


Q: What are some things that you like or dislike about Pittsburgh or the US?

A: Well, Pittsburgh is really beautiful, the outdoor landscape is very pretty. Again, I really like that people are so friendly. What I don’t like is that the weather changes so much in this season. I don’t mind the cold, it’s just how it will be different the next day. I also hate how the school doesn’t have windows. But overall, I’m pretty happy here!


Q: How has the language difference been for you? You seem to have very good English.

A: Thank you! I mean, sometimes I can understand, but sometimes people talk very fast. Even some teachers speak so fast that I can’t understand at all what they’re saying. Kids will also use a lot of slang, which is hard to know.


Q: Why did you decide to come here?

A: Of course, I wanted to learn more English, and get to know the new culture, and see what people are like. You always see American high schools in movies, and I wanted to see if it was really like that. So far it’s been very different. But you guys really do use yellow school buses! We don’t really have those, and I was kind of excited when I first saw some.


Q: Yeah, most of the schools in the movies are in suburbs or small towns. What was the process of coming here like?

A: I used the program CIEE to be an exchange student. There was a lot of applications that I did, and I was so surprised that I had to get a student visa! Anyway, I flew to New York and stayed for two days with other students in the program, and then came here. As I was driving home from the airport, through Pittsburgh with my host family, I really saw that Pittsburgh is quite big. We drove across the Fort Pitt Bridge, and that was a really amazing view. Yeah, I got excited about the yellow school buses, and a lot of the houses were so nice, with their architecture and bricks. It was just so cool.


Q: Well, thanks for talking with me!

A: Yes, you’re welcome!