Carolin Abele is enjoying Lisa Lader's German IV class at Aiken High School, where she and her new classmates are reading a novel – in German.
That's hardly a problem for the 16-year-old: She's an exchange student from Ulm, Germany, having arrived in Aiken a month ago.
Her new friends are reading with proficiency as Carolin helps them with pronunciations and words no longer in wide use. In turn, they assist her with English words she may not be familiar with.
Her host parents are Herb and Barbara Curry, and she is getting to know two of their daughters who live at home – Jessica, 20, and Jennifer, 16. Carolin has enjoyed getting to know her new family.
“I wanted to come to America and improve my English and meet new people,” Carolin said, who speaks fluently. “In Germany, I spend the whole day in school with the same people all day for six years. Every day here is a different schedule.”
The Currys had been hoping to host an exchange student, and only over the Christmas holidays were they formally contacted.
“Carolin has learned some traditions and the mannerisms of Southern women and how my daughters say, 'Yes, ma'am.' She has taught us about her culture. We're setting up activities to do some traveling with her,” said Barbara Curry.
Again, Carolin is intrigued by the school differences in Germany and the U.S. At home, she has no choice about the courses she takes – math, English, German, biology and chemistry. As it turns out, she is taking most of those classes at Aiken High.
She has appreciated the kindness of her German IV classmates – Sophie Nance, Jason Hightower, Andrew Cota and Lydia Gerstenberger. They have talked a lot about the book they are reading – Hans Peter Richter's “Damals war es Friedrich” – an award-winning novel about a Jewish boy and his Christian friend and how the world around them changed as Hitler rose to power.
“I love the States,” Carolin said. “I would like to stay for a while.”
Lader and her husband Art have sponsored group exchanges for students from Germany and their American students nearly every summer over the past 25 years.
“Carolin is a friendly girl and comfortable with our students,” Lader said. “The kids like her and really love it when she's in a chemistry or English class with them.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.