Home Away From Home

November 4, 2021


Katharina Grubelnik (11) in her Halloween costume.

This year, Fair Grove High School has welcomed two more foreign exchange students into the district.

One of these students is Katharina Grubelnik (11) from Austria. Grubelnik is staying with Debra Thomas, a Fair Grove citizen with two adult children.

Moving to a whole other country is always going to be a gateway for change and new experiences. Grubelnik expresses, “I think I changed, my parents told me I changed in a good way, but me for myself?  I don’t think I changed a lot yet, but in the next few months I’ll change a lot.”

Daily school day schedule changes are something that Grubelnik has expressed as something that a foreign exchange student must be prepared for. Grubelnik shared that, “School starts at eight am, my drive to school is about 30 minutes, that means… waking up early. So a big difference in the school systems is that in Austria we only have one class with about 23 people and we stay with this class all four years of high school. This class has one classroom and the teachers go from room to room. Our classes are 50 minutes long and after every class we have a five to 25 minute break. Our school normally ends at 1:35 pm. And then a 30 minute drive back home.”

When being a foreign exchange student, one of the struggles will be the language barrier between their home country’s language and English. Grubelnik talks about those hardships and how she deals with them by saying, “So, in Austria we have to learn English and in most of our schools we have to learn a second or even third language. I don’t remember how I started learning English but what I can say is that it is now normal for me to speak English and I always liked speaking another language. We have English classes in school and sometimes we also have exchange students or meet people who speak English, but besides that I never had experience with speaking English all day.”

Following this Grubelnik talks about things she has learned so far from being in America by stating, “I’ve learned a lot, not just independence or being open minded. It is much more, I have friends here and family. I learned to be part of a little school with a school spirit. I learn new words every day and I get to meet new people once in a while. I am living my best life here!”

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