‘They’re your typical teenagers’
TAHOE CITY “-Lena Frenzer, a 17-year-old exchange student from Wittlich, Germany, has a five-year plan that would rival someone’s twice her age.
While experiencing American culture and lifestyle through the Rotary Youth Exchange program this week, Frenzer has been staying with host families and attending high school courses in Truckee, eager to graduate and see more of the country: San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York City.
After the exchange program, Frenzer would like to continue her travels and hopes to spend six months living and working in France, Spain or Italy.
And once her thirst for different cultures is finally quenched, she plans to settle down for a few years and study law at a university in a Chinese speaking country.
Every year, thousands of students like Frenzer come to the U.S. through the Rotary Youth Exchange program to get a taste of American culture and the hallowed youth tradition that is high school.
And while their typical week days are spent studying and attending classes, 34 students from Rotary Club districts near Tahoe, Sacramento and Northern Nevada were invited to play hooky earlier this week for three days of skiing, sledding and socializing at Granlibakken Resort and Homewood Mountain Resort, an annual event hosted by the Rotary Club of Tahoe City, with lift tickets, rental packages and lessons compliments of the resorts.
“They’re your typical teenagers,” said Art Mennick, a host parent to four girls and Director of International Service for the Rotary Club of Tahoe City. “They stayed up and talked until 1 a.m. the other night and they always want to invite boys over to hang out.”
But while these students may act like average teenagers, their experiences in American high schools are very different from their home countries.
“It’s nice but it’s different,” said Flora Neustadt, a student from France currently staying in Sacramento. “The teachers here are so nice; they are like your friends instead of your instructors. And in France there is no school spirit, and it’s good people like to be a part of their school here.”
For some students, the shock of American culture is how little affection people show each other.
“The school is not really friendly,” said one student from Argentina. “In Argentina, if you see someone three times throughout the day, you kiss them three times. Here, no one even touches each other.”
And for other students, high school courses are a breeze.
“American Government is really easy,” said Neustadt. “It’s fun to learn.”
But despite the varying opinions of American high school culture and classes, many of the students had similar thoughts about Lake Tahoe.
“I love it up here; it’s so natural” said C.J. Andersson, a student from Denmark currently staying in Folsom. “The skiing is great.”
Marion Cerles, a student from France, said she thinks Lake Tahoe rivals Lake Annecy in France, which is considered one of the cleanest in Europe.
“I’m jealous,” she said. “Lake Annecy is the purest in Europe, but not as clear as Tahoe.”
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