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Hallo Philly from Deutschland

Nishka Avunoori

By Chanelle Ongagna, Staff Reporter

Daydreaming during English lessons in Germany, senior Frithjof Emsbach could hardly have imagined his life would one day revolve around speaking English everyday. Despite his initial disinterest in English, Emsbach later applied to a year-long studies program in the U.S.

After his application was approved, Emsbach was assigned a host family and cleared to come to the U.S. Arriving in Philadelphia on Aug. 13, Emsbach says that his host family has been kind and welcoming from the start. 

“I’m nervous to meet new people because I don’t know them, but I chatted with my host family before and FaceTimed them, and I had a good feeling with them. It’s a good relationship between us and I like them a lot. Couldn’t be better,” Emsbach said. 

His host brother and fellow senior Alexander Hallam has been especially helpful in getting him settled and introducing Emsbach to many of his friends. 

“I met a lot of the friends of my host brother,” Emsbach said. “My host brother helped me a lot with that. But I’m sometimes a little bit shy, and I’m not good at small talk, which makes things difficult.”

Hallam, anticipating Emsbach’s homesickness, made sure to help him get involved in community events as soon as possible. Hallam has taken Emsbach paintballing, out to eat at one of his favorite barbecue restaurants, to a school board meeting, the beach and football games. Because they share many of the same classes, Hallam has also been able to help Emsbach adjust to Conestoga’s fast academic pace.

“He’s gone from a small village to just a massive school. I think ’Stoga has a rigorous workload (that he isn’t used to),” Hallam said. 

Sports were another way for Emsbach to forge connections. Though he arrived in America too late to try out for the school soccer team, Emsbach joined the King of Prussia Soccer Club. This situation, he believes, is illustrative of one of the biggest differences between school culture in America and Germany.

“There are no school sports in Germany,” Emsbach said. “Only private clubs, which are paid for by the public and local companies. There isn’t really school spirit, like there is here. It’s kind of strange for me because I didn’t have that experience in Germany.”

Emsbach also finds American culture to be more supportive of individual aspirations. As someone who is considering a future career in the finance sector and whose favorite classes are Economics and Business and Marketing, he appreciates that entrepreneurship is celebrated in the U.S., since it isn’t as emphasized in Germany. 

“I like the American dream,” Emsbach said. “It’s a feeling here in society. In Germany, people are more jealous if you’re successful and don’t like taking risks. I have a feeling here that people appreciate it if you want to be an entrepreneur, and I think that’s a very good thing.”

American schools, Emsbach has discovered, also offer a wider variety of courses than German schools, where subjects tend to be less in-depth. One of his favorite classes, for example, AP  Economics with Mr. Davey, would have only been a general economics course in Germany. 

To Davey, the universality of economics might be another reason Emsbach has taken to his class, in a way he could not have with a class that would have required him to be more familiar with the U.S., like American History. He praises Emsbach for having had the courage to live away from his family in a foreign country.

“I think being an exchange student anytime is extremely challenging,” Davey said. “It’s probably braver than anything I’ve ever done in my entire life. The idea of going to a foreign country as an 18- or 17-year-old and emerging myself in a different culture and way of life and school is insane to me. He’s certainly braver than anything I’ve ever done.”

Though Emsbach enjoys his stay abroad and plans to return for future visits, he doesn’t see himself permanently settling in the U.S. In the meantime, he continues to immerse himself in the culture and seeks to return home with a better understanding of American life.

“I’m definitely visiting again,” Emsbach said. “Definitely.”

Chanelle Ongagna can be reached at [email protected].

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