Foreign exchange student immersing
herself into life as Fillmore Central student
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 3:44 AM
Initially, German foreign exchange student Lina Della Libera hadn't planned on studying abroad while still in high school. Then her sister, Katja, received a scholarship from the German government to study and be a junior diplomat in the States for a year.
Lina Della Libera is taking a year away from her homeland of Germany to study and live in the United States as a foreign exchange student to Fillmore Central. She is staying with the Eric and Tara Corson family. TARA CORSON/SUBMITTED PHOTO
Once she found out about that, Lina started thinking more seriously about going, by which time most of her sophomore year in school had passed. Although she submitted a late application, she knew it was the right decision. She received a lot of support from her parents, both of who had at one time desired to go on exchanges and now wanted Lina and Katja to experience America for themselves.
"Grandma was sad," explained Lina, telling the story of her grandmother who had stated how glad she was that both girls weren't leaving home at the same time. Feeling slightly guilty, Lina told her she was considering and would most likely go as well.
She arrived in New York City on Aug. 20 and flew to Minnesota on Aug. 23. Her sister is currently in Colorado, and Lina hopes to be able to visit her there before the year is through.
Initially, the Eric and Tara Corson family hadn't planned on hosting a foreign exchange student. They had considered it and finally committed to hosting Lina on Aug. 18, less than a week before she would arrive. The week flew by as the family of five rushed around shopping and preparing for Lina.
Both parties may have been late in responding, but things have settled down and Lina has been enjoying her first two months in America.
Lina, who just recently celebrated her 16th birthday, comes from the southwest German town of Renningen, a town with a population of 20,000 people. To her, the city was small.
Once she moved into Preston, she realized many people here would think it was big. Talking about the size of Preston, Lina pointed out the city as having gas stations and a medical place. "Even if it is small, it doesn't seem small."
While she had never been to the United States before, Lina had done plenty of traveling within Europe. Her family visits Italy one or two times per year for family. Her last name, Della Libera means "from liberty" in Italian and one of her grandfathers lives in Italy.
As she thought about what America would be like, Lina said she kept getting images of California and Texas in her mind. She also thought everybody would have a gun.
Once she arrived in Minnesota, it became clear very quickly that the United States isn't all just a long California beach or the Wild West.
Lina also found out not everyone has a gun and many who do may not even use it. She was shocked to see how much corn surrounded her; she said Germany has some fields, but few as big as those in Fillmore County.
Lina really enjoys politics and had been warned in Germany that it would be impossible to talk about politics with Americans. Already, she has discovered that notion to be false though it's not something her peers in America focus on too much.
When she returns home, Lina will have three more years of school after which she will try to get into a German ambassador college. She is enjoying learning about the American government.
"American politics is a battlefield," she noted, pointing to the two main political parties fighting all the time. She explained that Germany has four major parties, which are forced to work together since none has a majority of the political power.
Lina also weighed in on the current health insurance news and said Germany has a similar system to the Affordable Care Act. She will be able to continue to learn about American government and history through classes she is taking and during the Fillmore Central senior class trip to Washington, D.C.
School has been a different experience for Lina so far. She noted that the teacher-student relationship in Germany is much more formal, while here, discussions are more common.
"Here, you can go to them if you have a problem," she said.
Lina also had to deal with a schedule shift. Germany schools are run on a weekly schedule with classes meeting a few times every week. Now, she goes to every class, every single day.
"It's good for learning languages," Lina stated, who knows six of them at various levels of proficiency.
She began learning English in fifth grade and is at the point where thinking in English is not a problem. Even so, Lina still counts in German, which she plans to improve soon.
Lina has been getting involved in extracurricular activities as well. She worked as a manager for the volleyball team, is in the choir, and plans on getting into yearbook, knowledge bowl and drama activities. 'I want to try as much as I can," she said.
Culturally, Lina has been able to discover her love of s'mores in America and her dislike of root beer. "It tastes like liquid gum!"
She has been trying to cook a few of her favorite German dishes, including an egg noodle dish called Spätzle, but admitted she can't make them like her grandmother can.
Lina is looking forward to experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time and is also interested in why Halloween is such a big deal in America.
Much of her cultural education is occurring within the Corson home, where Eric and Tara's three children, Siri, Elias and Jonas have taught her just as much as she has taught them.
"I like kids. I always wanted to be a big sister," she laughed.
Tara shared that Lina has given their family a great opportunity to learn about Germany and for her husband and herself to learn about taking care of a teenage daughter.
"Lina has just molded herself into our family so easily. Her personality is very similar to our family," Tara explained.
Even though she will be away from family for a year, Lina said she doesn't feel like she is sacrificing much. "I think I'm earning more than what I lose," she said.
She usually communicates with her family over Skype once every two weeks. Sometimes, her family sends her German chocolate, which she in turn shares with her classmates.
"There are a lot of friendly people," she explained.
As she goes throughout the year, Lina hopes to leave with more than just a great experience as she explained, "I'm looking forward to getting a Minnesota accent!"