German exchange student attends Mt. Pleasant Area
Having had a desire to experience the life of an American teen, Kelly Van Den Wildenberg is doing just that with the help of a Mt. Pleasant Township family.
Van Den Wildenberg, who lives near Cologne, Germany, said she likes to travel. Since her sister had been a foreign exchange student with the Rotary International Yough Exchange in Canada, she was familiar with the program.
“I wanted to have the experience of having a real family and friends without actually moving there,” she said.
Van Den Wildenberg came to the United States on Aug. 15 as a student sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club.
She will remain in the United States at least through the school year.
Part of Van Den Wildenberg's American teen experience has come with attending Mt. Pleasant Area Junior/Senior High School, where she is a sophomore.
“I really enjoy school. I like the people at school. It's a little different than in Germany. It is much more formal,” she said. “The relationships between students and teachers are a lot more fun than (they are) in Germany.”
Van Den Wildenberg has been taking advantage of being able to play sports through the school.
She was on the tennis team and is now on the swim team and hopes to either participate in softball or track in the spring.
“In Germany we do not have sports in school. You have to join clubs for sports. Here you have your sports right at school,” she said.
Van Den Wildenberg's host family is Mark and Brandi Darr of Mt. Pleasant Township. The Darrs have one child, a daughter named Olivia, 16, who is a junior at Mt. Pleasant High School.
They family said there was an adjustment period to having a new person in their home but that they are enjoying having the teen live with them.
“It definitely is a big change, but we adapted quickly and, now, it's a lot of fun,” Olivia Darr said.
None of the Darrs speak German but Van Den Wildenberg, who learned English five years ago, speaks the language very well.
“It's been good to see the differences and similarities in the two cultures,” Van Den Wildenberg said.
The family lives more in the country compared to Van Den Wildenberg's home in Germany.
“For Kelly, who has always had access to a bus, it's been an adjustment,” said Brandi Darr. “It seems like all we do is drive but it's been a lot of fun.”
Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.