German student continues family traditionMonday, September 24, 2007 By Analise Rivero
For junior Laura Schellhas, a few simple math instructions mean a long night of homework. Schellhas, a foreign exchange student from Hamburg, Germany, is attending SCDS until January. While most exchange students live with a strange new family, Schellhas is staying with one that she has known all her life. Schellhas’s host father, Matt Ainsley, stayed with Schellhas’s grandparents in Hanover, Germany as an exchange student in 1980. He has stayed in touch and become good friends with the Schellhas family. Last year, Ainsley traveled to Germany for a reunion with the Schellhases. Laura’s father, Thomas, suggested that Laura would love to come to America as an exchange student since she had become proficient in English. “Language is probably the biggest hurdle as an exchange student,” Ainsley said. “At the beginning you still translate everything in your head.” Schellhas has been taking English in school for six years and is almost fluent, but still finds the homework at SCDS challenging. “Country Day has much more homework than we do in Germany,” Schellhas said. “About one hour a night more.” Academics are not all Schellhas finds different about the school. “Country Day offers many more sports,” Schellhas said. “We don’t have school volleyball or soccer teams, only P.E.” Watching volleyball and soccer games has been one of Schellhas’s favorite activities so far. She thinks that students at her school would love the opportunity to play school sports. Ainsley describes German teens as “more internationally aware and willing to talk about politics.” However, Schellhas feels there are only minor differences between American and German teenagers. “Teenagers in Germany hang out much more during the week, not as much on the weekend as they do here,” Schellhas said. Schellhas attributes this difference to the fact that her high school starts at 8 a.m. and dismisses at1:30 p.m., allowing teens much more free time during the week, along with less homework. In the U.S. Schellhas has been introduced to Oreos and Fruit Roll-Ups, neither of which is available in Germany. Schellhas says that Oreos are her favorite new food. The food that Schellhas misses the most is Schwarzbrot, a type of whole grain bread. “I’m not used to eating the white bread that seems popular in America,” she said. The Ainsleys realize that with all these new things, it is easy for Schellhas to become overwhelmed. Host mother Kim Ainsley said that “we had so many things planned right when she got here, but we’ve had to really slow things down.” The Ainsleys plan to eventually take Schellhas to Hollywood, Disneyland, Tahoe, San Francisco and Santa Cruz—“anything that we think of as distinctly Californian.” The Ainsley household is almost perfectly set up for accommodating an exchange student, so demands on the family are minimal. The house has an almost unused upstairs that Schellhas has all to herself. The biggest adjustment for the family has been that Schellhas is a vegetarian and they are not. “I decided that I wasn’t cooking two different meals,” Mrs. Ainsley said. “So the entire family is going to be vegetarian until January.” Being vegetarian for a semester doesn’t seem to upset Alyssa Ainsley, who is currently in the fourth grade. Her mother said that “she has always wanted a big sister—” and, for now, now she has one.