By NIKKI YOUNK
NIAGARA, Wis. - When he signed up to be an exchange student, Simon Frewert of Germany had two objectives in mind: to improve his English skills and to immerse himself in a new culture.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
German exchange student Simon Frewert works in the science lab at Niagara High School. He is one of nine exchange students at Niagara this year.
After spending this academic year as a student at Niagara High School, he believes that he has reached those goals.
Simon comes from Luegde, a city of about 20,000 people, which is located near Hannover, a city of several hundred thousand people.
As a result, he was not used to the rural lifestyle that northeast Wisconsin has to offer. However, he has come to enjoy Niagara's small town atmosphere.
"You just know everybody and everybody knows you," said Simon. "You find friends much faster."
The cooler climate and wide open spaces also agree with him.
"There's lots of space and lots of possibilities for outdoor activities," Simon added. "I went ice fishing for the first time."
Also helping Simon adjust to life in Niagara are his host parents, Lisa and Mark Anderson; host siblings, Jacob, Colin, and Myah; and the eight other exchange students who are attending Niagara High School this year.
Simon said that he actually met two of his fellow exchange students, Saskia Ammon of Germany and Tarzis Maurer of Switzerland, in his exchange program orientation.
Six of the nine Niagara exchange students are from Germany, but Simon emphasized that they try to speak to each other in English as much as possible.
Simon has little trouble with the English language, as he has been studying it since the second grade. In his German high school, he even takes several classes in English.
School in Germany is much different from school in America, Simon noted, and in more ways than one.
He pointed out that while Niagara High School focuses on preparing students for college, German schools just teach students "what they need to know" and do not help them with their future plans.
The entire education systems are also different.
Simon stated that there are three types of secondary schools in Germany that are based on academic achievement. Gymnasium, which covers grades five through 12, is for advanced students; real school, which covers grades five through 10, is for average students; and main school, which covers grades five through nine, is for students of lower academic capabilities.
As Simon explained, students who want to attend college must graduate from a gymnasium. Students who graduate from a real school cannot get into college, but can still obtain some decent jobs. Main school graduates do not have many well-paying jobs available to them, said Simon.
He added that students do have the opportunity to move between schools. For example, a student could fail at a gymnasium and be sent to a real school, or a student could graduate from a real school then enroll in a gymnasium.
When Simon returns to Germany, he will have to take his tenth grade year over again so he can catch up on what his classmates learned while he was an exchange student.
He plans to go to a university someday, but is undecided on where. Although he would like to return to America for college, he admits it would be expensive. College in Germany is free to all German students.
Whatever the future holds, Simon hopes his exchange student experience in Niagara will help him.
"In Germany, if I say I've lived in the U.S., I can get good jobs," he said.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.