Junior exchange student from Germany, Laura Nostadt, left her family, language, and everything about her normal lifestyle behind to travel thousands of miles and through multiple time zones to live in the United States for a year. In less than two months, she has already started to notice the similarities between being a teenager in America and being a teenager in Germany. Nostadt talks about living with a new family, attending a new school, and what she looks forward to about her stay in the States.
By Johanna Welling
Q: What was your first impression of America? Was it what you thought it would be?
NOSTADT: Yeah, actually it was funny, because I had to fly to Philadelphia and change my plane, and the first thing I saw at the airport in Philadelphia was this really fat woman… she was big, and I thought, that’s America.
Q: What is the biggest adjustment you had to make when you came here?
NOSTADT: I’m more dependent on my host family than I was with my family at home because I can’t drive here, there are no trains that can take me anywhere, no buses—well there are buses but people say they aren’t safe and I really don’t want to use them… so I always need my host family to drive me.
Q: What do you look forward to most about being here?
NOSTADT: I just try to improve my English and take a good experience home so that I can say I had fun, I met nice people, and make friends for life, so I can come back.
Q: How did you end up coming to UA? Was it your choice to come here?
NOSTADT: No, I just applied for this program and filled out stuff about me [so] they can find a host family for me [that] matches my interests, so they found the Dorfmans so I came here. I think I could’ve had a choice to choose a state or something like that, but I didn’t want to do that.
Q: What did you have to put on the form? What kind of information?
NOSTADT: I had to write a letter about myself and I had to include [much] information like what my hobbies are or what I like, what I did in the past, and I had to fill out what my favorite food is or random things.
Q: Do the American teenagers dress differently from the German teenagers?
NOSTADT: Yeah, a little bit, but I think it just depends on the people because people are very different here, and in Germany too. What I have heard from other friends that have been to America two years ago, they said that girls don’t wear skinny jeans. It surprised me that people wear skinny jeans here… but a girl who was in another school in Columbus, she changed to this school this year and she said in her old school, girls didn’t wear skinny jeans.
Q: Are there certain brands or designers that you don’t see very often here that you do have in Germany?
NOSTADT: My backpack (points to brand name on backpack)… everyone has that. Not this particular [one], but the brand. And people don’t have Northface backpacks at my school. But the Ugg boots, they were popular the past few years, Converse, Vans…
Q: So in Germany, there’s different laws for teenagers like not being able to drive until you’re 18 and being able to drink alcohol when you’re 16, and it’s kind of the opposite in America. How has that effected you, being here and not being able to drink or being able to be driven by kids your age?
NOSTADT: It’s weird that I can’t drive but everyone else can. In Germany, my older friends who are 18 or 19 can drive me, but they’re older so it’s different. It’s strange that people my age can drive. All the weekend activities are different here than in Germany and I think it’s better. It depends on the people, but some kids in Germany… they really drink a lot so it’s better that you can’t drink here.