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Exchange student brushes up on English

Luca Vahrenwald traveled from Berlin to live in Hammond for a year as an exchange student at St. Croix Central High School.

Despite the fact it's his first time in America, St. Croix Central exchange student Luca Vahrenwald said he hasn't really been surprised by anything he's seen in the United States so far.

Vahrenwald, a junior from Berlin, said that is thanks to the American television shows he watched on TV at home in Germany. What he said was a surprise was the distinct lack of public transportation in Hammond.

"Americans use every time the car," Vahrenwald said. "They don't really walk."

Vahrenwald said St. Croix Central High School is very different than his high school in Berlin, which is a Gymnasium, a type of advanced college-preparatory school.

"The relationship between teachers and students here is a lot closer relationship," Vahrenwald said. "In Germany, if I see my teacher after school or so, I don't really talk to him and do like I don't know him because the relationship is not good."

Another difference between the German and American high school experience, Vahrenwald said, is Homecoming. He said American Homecoming has been his favorite experience in the United States so far.

"We have it (Homecoming) a little bit in Germany, but not like this," Vahrenwald said.

Vahrenwald said in Germany Homecoming celebrations are really only for seniors.

"At Homecoming you have one day you wear only like purple things because you're a junior, or you're like a cowboy or so. And in Germany, that we have the same, but only the 12th grade is doing this," Vahrenwald said. "It's not that much fun because you are not really part of it if you are not in the 12th grade."

Of course, Vahrenwald said he didn't come to the U.S. for Homecoming. He came to improve his English.

"I was never in the USA so I wanted to be here," Vahrenwald said. "It's really far away from Germany so I'm on my own and of course to learn the language and have a great ... experience."

Vahrenwald began studying English in third grade.

"I think I know enough to stay in a foreign country, but my English is not perfect," he said. "So I'm here to make it perfect."

Vahrenwald said it was challenging for the first few weeks of his stay in Hammond to be so far away from home, especially with the added challenge of improving his English language skills.

"Now I don't have any problems with it," Vahrenwald said. "I have my host family and my friends here, it's not that hard anymore, not that difficult."

Vahrenwald said many of his fellow students at St. Croix Central have informed him they have German heritage. He said he found this interesting.

"I was a little bit surprised that so many people have a German last name," he said.

Despite the abundance of German ancestry, Vahrenwald said not very many people in Hammond actually speak German.

"Fabian (Hagedorn, sophomore exchange student from Hamburg), he's from Germany too, if I want to speak German with him I can," Vahrenwald said, "But I am here to learn English, so it's OK."

Vahrenwald will return to Germany in June. Meanwhile, he said he's enjoying his time in Hammond at St. Croix Central.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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