We received so many amazing April nominations for Stellar Student of the Month, we couldn’t choose just one! This month, we would also like to introduce Leonie from Germany, who has been a rock star in the classroom and has brightened the lives of her host community in Texas. Danke schön, Leonie!
What surprised you most when you came to the U.S.? I was really surprised by my school, because it is so different from what I’m used to. We have technology everywhere, and we use our laptops for everything. And the learning dynamics are way different from what I expected. They have a thing at my school called project-based learning, where you work in projects and you have a lot of independent study and you’re supposed to teach yourself a lot. I guess it’s not the typical American high school, but it’s really cool. I had different expectations when I came here, but I was positively surprised.
What are some of your favorite memories of your host family? Some things that really stood out were the trips that we took. Over Thanksgiving break, my host family and I went to Washington, D.C. and New York City, and over spring break, we went to California. We got to see so many things, and it was cool to see different areas of the U.S., which is a really big country. By now, I’m used to Texas, so seeing a city like Los Angeles or New York City was so different. I made a lot of memories, and I’m really grateful that my host family gave me that opportunity. I’ll really remember that.
You have been doing really well in school. Do you have any advice to give other exchange students about how to excel in school in the U.S.? I paid attention to the classes that were a little more special to things that I wouldn’t learn in Germany. Being an exchange student, it’s important to show your interest in other people and in other classes and experiences, and I guess that’s just part of the whole plan. I hope that I did that, that I showed my interest and learning from other people, teachers, and my classes.
We heard you did really well on your Advanced Placement practice exams! Could you tell us a little about that? AP exams are in May, and I signed up for AP exams and took the practice exams. I decided to sign up for English and World History, because they were the classes that were the most rewarding for me. English, for obvious reasons—I want to improve my English and my writing style and everything. I really like my history class too. I did pretty well on the practice exams—I got fives on both [the highest score]. I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to my AP exams, but I’m kind of excited for them. I want to show what I’ve learned so far.
Can you tell us more about your involvement with Model United Nations? Even though politics can be frustrating at times, I think it’s really important to know what’s going on in the world. And I felt like the club would really help me with my knowledge about different countries and their politics, and also with my English skills because you have to do a lot of researching, writing, and speaking. And I’ve actually made a few friends, which is really cool.
This weekend we had our state competition. It’s pretty hard—it’s not really a leisure activity, but it’s rewarding, and our school did really well. I got an award for outstanding position paper, which is the paper you prepare for the debate. I also got an award for best delegation, along with three other people at my school. We represented Japan. Our school was really happy, and we all cheered for each other.
In what way has your exchange prepared you for what might come next? It was really cool to be immersed in this different culture and have a completely different lifestyle for awhole year. It helps me be a more well-rounded person with more life experience. I think I’ve made some important experiences, and I can continue my school career with more knowledge and confidence in myself. So I think NWSE really helped me get out of my comfort zone. It was a whole year of my life, so it’s a lot!
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to incoming foreign exchange students? Try to have as much fun as possible, take classes that look interesting, and join interesting clubs that you couldn’t take at home. Try to have fun and collect experiences, try to talk to people, and just do a lot. In the end, it will be a fulfilling experience!