German student exchanges passions and traditions

The Southerner

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Linda Lewek is engulfed in a stadium full of crimson red, charcoal black and gray. Students of different grade levels around her scream to see which class can scream the loudest. The boys on the field in front of her throw a ball around and run into each other. The experience of a pep rally is common for most Grady students, but for Linda Lewek, it is exceptional.

“At first everything was really exciting to me because a lot of things are very different in America,” Lewek said. “I got to experience the true American high school spirit.”

Lewek is a 17-year-old, German exchange student who came to America in August. When Lewek wakes up on a school day back home in Germany, she prepares herself for a day of four to 10 classes. Unlike the four, hour-and-a-half classes Grady has every day, each weekday at Lewek’s school in Germany has its own distinct schedule. German students travel with the same core group of people throughout the entire school day except for lunch, which is 45 minutes long. Although her American classes are longer and the lunch period is shorter, Lewek enjoys the second chances given on assessments in her classes. At her old school, there were only five graded assignments a year in each class—all tests—so studying was much more strenuous and time-consuming.

When the school bell rings at the end of the day at Grady, many students go to a sports practice, a club meeting or an extracurricular activity. At Lewek’s school in Germany, however, there are no sports teams to join and no clubs to attend.

“My favorite part about Grady is the after-school activities,” Lewek said. “[In Germany] if you want to do a sport after school, you have to join a private club.”
In addition to not having school-sponsored sports, Germany does not have the variety of sports that America does.
“Soccer is very popular in Germany, and so is basketball, swimming, etc, but it’s hard to find American football, baseball or lacrosse in Germany,” Lewek said.
Lewek has enjoyed playing lacrosse at Grady four days a week after school.

For Lewek, the changes in school culture were just the beginning of her acculturation. While spending time in the states, Lewek has become more open to change and to the world around her.

“I learned to be more open-minded,” Lewek said. “I learned to deal with all kinds of problems, and I became more self dependent.”
Lewek also enjoys hanging out with her friends, including freshman Faye Webster.

“If I could describe Linda in three words, they would be funny, sweet and likable,” Webster said. “She laughs at the same things I laugh at, even when there isn’t anything to laugh at. With Linda, I feel that special relationship.”

Lewek has also found a new passion for art. Since being put in the drawing and painting class last semester, Lewek has begun drawing portraits of her friends and family.

“After a while I got used to the American culture, and now I don’t even think about it anymore,” Lewek said. “It has become part of my life.”

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