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Justel immersed in ‘American’ life PDF Print E-mail
Friday, November 09, 2012 12:47 PM

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OTTOVILLE — Of all the reasons an 18-year-old exchange student would choose to come to America, the Presidential Election isn’t one you’d expect. However, for Alex Justel of Fichtelberg, Germany, the election was a primary attraction.

“It’s a great honor to be here during the election. It’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come,” he said. “Policy is more aggressive here than in Germany. I can’t decide which guy I support and I’m sure I would choose the wrong one. I just hope the better guy will win; whoever is better for America.”

While a presidential election is certainly exciting, there were other reasons Justel decided to come spend a year in the United States.

“I wanted to improve my English skills, of course, and I also wanted to get to know some new people and a new culture,” he said. “I wanted to experience the American way of life. It was also a way for me to escape from home for a while. I’ve already graduated back in Germany so it’s a way for me to take a break before I begin my studies at university. I’m going to study geosciences. I find earth sciences very interesting.”

While staying with the family of Rick and Lori Fischer, Justel is attending Ottoville High School as a senior. Since he is 18, he is limited in the number of activities he can participate in but he manages to stay busy.

“I was an assistant for the volleyball team and got to help out with the games. I’m also helping in band and I’m the mascot for the basketball season,” he said. “My host parents have three sons, Justin, Cory and Trevor. Justin left for college not long after I got here on August 4. Cory and Trevor are in Boy Scouts and I’ve been helping with that. I’m busy all of the time. I don’t watch much television. The only thing I’ve watched is the three presidential debates.”
In Germany, Justel says activities are more solitary.

“At home, I did cross country skiing for 10 years. My father and I are part of a motor club and he is working on a classic car, getting some parts from America,” he said. “Most things you do on your own. Community activities and getting together to help your neighbors isn’t really a big deal in Germany. The hospitality here is much better. People do more stuff together.”

Since he arrived, Justel has gone on several trips with his host family.

“We are taking a trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City this week, the 8-11,” Justel said. “We are spending two days in Washington, D.C., and two in New York. We heard they’re expecting a new storm in New York so hopefully if we don’t get to see everything I can see the rest when we go back for the senior trip this spring. I’m excited about that trip. Both are great American cities. I’ve also been to Chicago with Rick’s brother. We’ve gone to an Ohio State game in Columbus and visited Cedar Point, too.”
Justel also attended a preparation camp at the beginning of his exchange at a university in Vermont. He will head back at the end of his exchange and hopes to play a larger role.

“They have this thing where you can become a ‘returnee,’ where you help the new exchange students coming in,” he said. “Last year, there were 500 students from 70 nations and they’re expecting the same amount next year. It’s a big deal to be a returnee and there are a lot of opportunities. I think it would be a good way to improve my leadership skills.”

Justel misses his parents, Christa and Hartmut, but thanks to modern technology and Skype, he gets to see their faces. Who Justel really misses are his friends.
“I’ve seen my parents for 18 years. I miss them but I Skype with them once a week or two,” he said. “I miss my friends the most. I also miss the German way of life — just relaxing. I miss German school, as well. High school here is pretty tough. I don’t think an exchange student has an easy life here in America. It’s not too bad though, the people are nice and I’m learning new things.”

Since Justel is staying for an entire year, there are things he will be sad to leave when he returns home.

“I only got here in August, so we haven’t really talked about my departure,” he said. “I’ll probably miss my host family; they’re a great family. Unfortunately, I have no siblings at home but here I have three. I’ll miss the hospitality and the American way of life. I’ll miss the friendships I’ve made. I think this is one of the best places I could’ve chosen to come. It’s a great life, I’m really enjoying my exchange here and I hope I can come back.”


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