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Walk in their shoes

Ulyana Pyrlik

Walk in their shoes

Pia Knüppe, an exchange student from Germany, was staying in Wyoming for half a year, and moved in Colorado in December to continue her exchange experience.

Pia Knüppe is a foreign student of “Camps” exchange program from Germany. She has an interesting story of her applying for this opportunity to spend an academic year in the United States.

“The first program I was interested in — Parlamentarische Patenschafts-Programm (PPP) — wanted to know our political interests and required knowledge of American and German history. For example, they showed us pictures of US presidents and we had to tell their names. I didn’t know a lot about that, and it actually didn’t correspond to my idea of exchange programs,” tells Knüppe.

She was persuaded that being a student in another country was a unique chance which you should use to add to the well of cultural experience you have. “It allows you to meet people from all over the world! When I was going to travel to America, I was looking forward to learning more about this huge country, feel diversity, discover something new. Your goals and ideas — that’s what they need to test!” remarked Knüppe.

That is exactly what she found in her current exchange program — Ava. “I want to grow as a person, become open-minded and more independent,” she said during her interview. “They also made sure I was ready to live by myself in a new country, asking psychological questions.”

Knüppe didn’t face a lot of obstacles being away from home, but “had some moments of homesickness when there were problems with the families.” She was placed in Wyoming, first, but moved in Colorado in the middle of December.

Back home Knüppe enjoyed spending time with her friends and family: “We usually watch movies and play games. And I like being outside walking with my family and our dog”. Besides, Knüppe has always been into sports. Her main interests are soccer and basketball. “I was involved in basketball for three years and have been playing soccer since the age of five, but stopped for four years, and continued in America.” German student tried snowboarding in the US, too, and liked this experience a lot.

The educational system in Germany doesn’t differ a lot from many counties our exchange students came from. “Americans have a way less classes comparing to 14 subjects on our weekly schedule, and we don’t get to choose any.”  Although Knüppe’s school offers music, arts, and drama classes, and students don’t wear school uniforms, they are not allowed to use any technology. “Also, here, in America, teachers care about you as a person, not only as a student,” she noted.

Once she came to the US, Knüppe wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving day the most. “We went to grandparents of my host family and spent a wonderful time playing different games.” She was also excited about a trip to New York. “We stayed in this city for four days and it was amazing to look for the famous buildings I saw in the movies. It was just cool to be there!”

Other memories Knüppe has are volunteering at the church in Wyoming, where she, in a group of volunteers, made a cake to share with people who gave their hand. “I also liked hanging out with my friends. I enjoyed us sitting around the bonfire, watching sport events at school… You feel support from everyone.”

While her original family and friends are looking forward to Knüppe’s return, she doesn’t want to leave. “Although I can’t wait to meet my community, be able to use public transportation and have independence in actions — there are some restrictions for our safety as exchange students — I am sad about my departure. What I definitely will miss about America is friendly people; I have a feeling that everyone is a lot more positive here. I remember myself after my arrival to the airport. My English was not good, but everyone still tried to understand and help me,” she shares. “Just being friendly. That is something that we need in Germany.”

Once she is back, Knüppe is going to receive her driver’s license and work. She also has a goal to travel to some countries. “I want to visit my friends in South Africa, Brazil, go to Australia and I hope to come back to the states the next year.”

Knüppe also likes American breakfast. “Pancakes, toasts, and my favorite American bacon… I miss my mother’s bread, though. She cooks it by herself and it is always so tasty.”

From her experience, Knüppe would like to give a piece of advice: “Don’t worry about bad days and appreciate everything you have. Make new friends and be open-minded whatever you do!”

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