Q&A with German Elmbrook exchange student

Ekko Bruns is currently a student at BEHS, but he attended BCHS last year and has been staying with Adam Uy’s (‘20) family

Stephanie Chen, Head Editor-in-Chief

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Q: What was your experience as an exchange student at BC? How did you end up attending BC? What as the most meaningful part of the experience? How was it similar and different than what you expected? What would you say would be the three most significant differences between Germany and America from your experiences?

A: I have had a lot of new experiences at BC. Every teacher, student, and staff member has been so helpful and kind to us. I love getting to know students from a different culture and to exchange the differences between school, life, and activities between Germany and the USA.

I think the most meaningful part in the USA was to get to know other teenagers because it is so much fun to talk with them. I enjoy hanging out with them and seeing what they like to do in their free time and what they do when they meet.

I thought a lot before I came to Brookfield how it would be and how Americans would live. Actually it was not as different as I expected, I could imagine it pretty well through facts in movies.

In my opinion, one of the most significant differences is that the American people work a lot more, they don’t have the same time as Germans to take care of themselves by. I was impressed how much Americans have to do, even at home. Sometimes I think you do not have enough time to relax and have some time for your own.

Another difference between the two cultures is school. Elmbrook schools have way more subjects and even more that will help you in the future. For example, we do not have Automotive Technology classes which means that a German student would never get to try it. I like it a lot that you can try a bunch of different subjects. Also sport is a big thing in American schools, which is why every student is patriotic for their own school. As most of the sport is done in clubs in Germany, this type of school-loveness is not that popular. Also in Germany a class has its own classroom. So the teachers come to the room instead of students going to their teachers room.

Another huge difference is public transportation and cycling, because German teenagers are allowed to drive cars by themselves at 18, not 16, a lot of German students take a bus or cycle wherever they want to go. Students get a free bus pass and train ticket for the state they live in (there are only 16 in Germany) which makes public transportation even more effective and easier for them.

Q: Who did you stay with? Did you get to know them prior to the exchange? Do you still keep in touch?

A: I stayed at Adam Uy’s family at the exchange. I am so happy that I could meet them for two weeks. Before the stay I skyped with Adam and his mom to get known each other. We also chatted via e-mail to plan and organise the trip however we wanted.

To the question if we still keep in touch: Actually I stay at the same family this whole year. I am more than thankful that they hosted me as I loved it here. I stayed with them for two weeks last year, and liked it so much I wanted to do it again.

When I told them I wanted to do another exchange for the full year, they offered me directly to stay at their house. Only this made the foreign exchange year in Brookfield possible. Otherwise I would have been matched to another family randomly.

Q: What was the hosting experience like? Any favorite memories or highlights you’d like to share?

A: In June I had the opportunity to host Luke Niggemann from BC for to weeks. I was very excited about it because we have never done something like that before. Hosting a student from another culture was a big experience for me because I was able to tell and show him a lot of my culture. I was also able to learn new things about my culture as I saw my home from a different perspective.

During these two weeks I also found a lot of new friends who don’t live just in Brookfield. A lot of hosts didn’t make as strong of connections with their exchange student, but during the program I learned a lot about students in my school I haven’t talked with before. That is why I think hosting an exchange student is a big opportunity to learn new things about different cultures. I think it is always worth it to try it out.

Q: As a host, do you have any advice for students participating in family stays(not the hosts) in the future? What about for other hosts? Would you be willing to host again and why/why not?

A: The best thing about being an exchange student is to show other people your culture. You can do that in many ways, such as cooking a meal with dishes from your home or showing pictures of your country. If I had to give some advice, I’d say to practice one or two meals at home and cook them at your host. They are just as excited to learn your culture as you are to learn theirs, and they will be so excited to try new dishes.

I had a lot of fun hosting an international student which is why I would love to do it again and I can bet that my parents would say the same thing.

Q: Why did you decide to return to the Elmbrook School District?

A: I decided to go back to the Elmbrook School District as I knew how my life would be in Brookfield. I was aware of my family, the school and the surroundings. During my exchange I could see a lot of nice places in Wisconsin and Illinois but I was sure that there were many more things to explore. The people I met were so nice and open to us which is one of many reasons why it felt like home. I was very disappointed when I had to go home which was the moment I knew that I wanted to come back to the United States of America and have a lot of fun and get experience USA from a different perspective.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share that I did not ask about?

A: Next school year, Brookfield Central and East students will be able to host a student from Seligenstadt, Germany. It is an exchange between the Elmbrook schools and the Einhardschule Seligenstadt. Brookfield and Seligenstadt are sister cities which is why the schools are able to organise this trip every other year. You will also have the opportunity to go to Seligenstadt and learn more about Germlan culture, school, and life. Everyone who took part in the exchange had a lot of fun and I am sure you will have it too. Don’t worry if you do not speak German as you can take part anyways. I would recommend you to try it out and see if you would like to continue hosting or visiting other cultures.