This year, Potosi High School has welcomed two new foreign exchange students: Emma Höepfner, a junior from Berlin, Germany, and Tünde Lippai, a junior from Gödöllő, Hungary. They’ve both come a long way and came excited to learn about a new culture, experience a new environment, and meet new friends. They’ve learned so much about us and how things are done in America, but let’s learn a bit more about them and their lives in their home countries.
Tünde Lippai loves traveling and learning about different cultures, so she has wanted to become a foreign exchange student for a long time. “I have been to many countries: Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Albania, Austria, Croatia…but I’ve always wanted to come to America.” Her family was also a large factor, as many of her close relatives were foreign exchange students once in their lives. “My father lived in Australia for 5 years, my mother went to England for 1 year, and my cousin came to the USA 3 years ago.”
Her life in Hungary was full of adventure. “After school, I would go to piano practice and then track and field practice. My hometown is only a 30-minute drive to the capital city of Hungary, so in the wintertime we would often go to the theater. During fall and spring break, though, my family and I went to our holiday house. This vacation home is in a small village named Tiszadob. I love this place; I always swam in the river with my brother, went roller skating, or biked on a path along the countryside.”
She arrived here on August 28, 2021, and the change in environment and culture struck her nearly immediately. “I feel like I didn't really fit in because my English is very terrible so I don’t understand a lot of things,” Tünde said. “Everybody is speaking very fast so I haven't got enough time to grasp.” It didn’t help that on her way here she got stuck in Chicago O’hare International Airport. This was surely a very overwhelming experience and a very rocky start to her time here in America.
Even now as she’s settled in and in school, she’s still trying to adjust to life here and the language. “Everything is really different. The people, school, lifestyle, houses, etc. Maybe the most different for me is school. I learn subjects here that I don’t learn at home. For example journalism, anatomy, animal science, and government. In Hungary, all kids learn the same subjects. These would be math, literature, grammar, history, biology, chemistry, physics, English, and German, and that's it.”
Emma Höepfner was also influenced by family, as her brother was a foreign exchange student. “I decided to because my brother did it too and he told me it was one of the best decisions he ever made because of how many different things he got to experience and how many memories he made.” She also plans to go to college in the USA, so she figured this would be a good opportunity to become better at English and get used to the culture.
Her life before coming here wasn’t much different than it is now. “I played sports, went to school, hung out with my friends, and so on. But of course, the environment here is very different from Berlin, a city of 3 million people.” Emma was used to having stores, restaurants, and fun activities right around the corner, so coming here, where the nearest store or restaurant is 10-25 minutes away, was quite a difference.
She arrived here on August 5, 2021, and while the environment wasn’t as overwhelming for her, she did take note of some major differences. “I love how much nature is everywhere because that isn’t as easy to find in Berlin. Of course, we have forests, but it’s like a 20-minute drive and here I only have to step outside the door. There’s also the architecture of all the buildings and the food industry too because everything here has so much added sugar and artificial flavors.”
While she feels she has adjusted to many of the cultural and environmental differences she has encountered, she is, of course, finding herself missing the small things from her home country. “Of course, I do miss my family and friends and my cat a lot. I’d say [my family] I miss the most. But also just things like my own room, the completely different atmosphere, and certain foods.”
Both Emma and Tünde have overcome many personal hardships and hurdles to get here, and still experience troubles to this day, but these problems have been overshadowed by all of the fun they’re having and everything they’re learning.
While Tünde is dealing with her own struggles and misses her family daily, she is enjoying it here a lot and is happy about all the benefits being here has brought her. “I really like everything here, sometimes I miss my home but I really enjoy it here. Time flies very fast here, it feels like I arrived yesterday and I am happy my English is improving.”
While Emma misses her family and the small things back in Germany, she is having a lot of fun with her new friends and is looking forward to more new experiences. “I think there will always be some new things that will surprise me a little bit and that I will have to get used to, but right now I feel pretty adjusted and like I have picked up many of the differences. But as I said I think learning about differences will continue happening and therefore adjusting too, which is a good thing, because learning about this culture and living in it is one of the many reasons why I even came here.”