By Maddie Scullion and Eva Dougherty
Do you know what it’s like to be in a foreign country and not know how to speak the language? Well, you can ask Elianah Sukoenig, senior at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, who just came back from studying abroad in Germany.
Sukoenig applied to study abroad through the Rotary Program, where they chose the country for you, and was selected to go to Germany. She traveled all over Germany but mainly stayed in the small town of Türkheim, which is about one hour from Munich.
Sukoenig left America Sept. 1, 2012 and returned Aug. 1, 2013. For the 11 months she was gone, Sukoenig stayed with three different families, all of which had children around her age. As an only child, Sukoenig described it as “a new experience to have siblings.” It was also a new language; “(everyone in her host families) spoke English, but not very well, so speaking in German was easier,” Sukoenig said. She said she felt most at home with her third host family, and still keeps in touch. She also still keeps in touch with one of her host sisters, who is now studying abroad in Brazil.
Though she had never been gone from home for that long, she said that being away from her real family wasn’t a big deal for her. “I’ve always been pretty independant,” she said.
Carly Neugebauer, senior at JDHS and friend of Sukoenig, said that they stayed in touch while Sukoenig was away. “We texted almost every day and Facetimed occasionally,” said Neugebauer. “When she came back [Sukoenig] had a German accent for the first week.”
Another new experience for Sukoenig was learning German. When she arrived in Germany she didn’t know any German, but picked it up while she was there. “By the end, I had tourists asking me for directions,” Sukoenig said.
For Sukoenig, school was very different in Germany than in America. “School was from 7:50 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. with a twenty minute ‘pause’ between every two classes to talk, have a break, eat,” she described. Sukoenig went to school twice a week. Normal students would go back to school and have classes until 3 p.m., said Sukoenig. When students in Germany get closer to making the “abitur” which is a graduation, they focus on math, sciences or languages. Overall, Sukoenig said that German students “got way less homework than us, and never had so many tests in one day as we do.”
Sukoenig noted that German teenagers had more freedom than American teens. “They don’t spend as much time on homework, and have much more free time” said Sukoenig. In Germany it’s legal for teenagers to drink beer and wine and go to night clubs. “They seemed more mature, too,” said Sukoenig. “With the public transportation system, specifically trains, it makes getting around a lot easier,” said Sukoenig. Sukoenig was also surprised about the fact that Germany was eco-friendly, clean, organized and quiet.
The food was another highlight. Sukoenig described the food as being “really German. There was so much bread.” She also liked the food “spätzle” which is similar to egg noodles. The typical breakfast in Germany includes bread and jam with cheese and meat. There were also lots of potatoes, pretzels and beer.
Her favorite part of the trip was the Germany and Europe tour, as well as the people; “The best thing about [my trip] were the friends I made,” Sukoenig said. “I had more international friends; I spent most of my time with the other exchange students because we were all in the same position.” And even though Sukoenig is back, she still keeps those friends close; “I keep in touch with them daily.”
“I think of my exchange year as a life in a year, not a year of my life. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done; I made so many friends and learned so many things you can’t learn in our textbooks at school,” said Sukoenig.