The American dream: life as an exchange student in the year of COVID


Lily Deitch

A virtual welcome: Creek greets German exchange student Alicia Suerken with the new remote schedule. “It is like my dream to make an exchange here,” Suerken said. “Everybody is so nice and helps me out.”

Lily Deitch, Staff Writer

It was time. As she walks through the school hallways in a foreign country, sophomore Alicia Suerken is a bundle of excitement. She frolics with a twinkle in her eye, a pep in her step, because she knows that this is the start of an experience she will never forget.

High school is an experience in itself. And this year, the twists and turns that COVID-19 has taken us on has made the overwhelming experience of high school even worse.

As students who are trying to make it through high school, we tend to forget to take breaks and live freely.

Suerken, who is an exchange student from Germany, has remembered to follow her dreams. She has fantasized about spending a year abroad in the United States, and was granted the opportunity to do so this year. Alone.

“I was pretty nervous and scared, myself, when I arrived,” Suerken said. “[But,]  I was proud of myself that I made it.”

It was a big deal to fly eleven hours over the Atlantic by herself; especially at such a young age. But, even in a year where COVID runs rampant, Suerken decided to take the great leap.

She was nervous on her first day of school, but thankfully she was embraced with wide arms.

“When I couldn’t find my classroom, I just went to the counseling office and they helped me out. Everybody was so nice,” Suerken said.

Although she is enjoying her time understanding the American culture, Suerken recognizes that she is missing out on many things that would be perceived as the “American dream.”

In Germany, sports are not played at school. So when she came to the United States, she was pleasantly surprised to see that high schoolers could play sports.

Suerken was excited about watching football games and being truly immersed in Creek’s school spirit, but it just wasn’t a possibility.

“[Not watching football games] was kind of disappointing because it was like a big thing I wanted to experience,” Suerken said.

In addition to missing out on several Creek traditions, Suerken cannot feel truly involved with school or friends through the screen of her laptop.

“I kind of think that I miss something, because of online school, but yeah it is what it is,” Suerken said.

Adjusting to the style of school this year has been a challenge for all of us. Despite COVID, Suerken has genuinely embraced the American experience for which she had been yearning. Delighted with the way her year is turning out, Suerken is happy to have this opportunity.