German Exchanges Bratwurst for Burgers

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German Exchanges Bratwurst for Burgers

Sophomore Lea Kuehnel smiles for her first day of school with host sister, seventh grader Tori Martin.

Sophomore Lea Kuehnel smiles for her first day of school with host sister, seventh grader Tori Martin.

Sophomore Lea Kuehnel smiles for her first day of school with host sister, seventh grader Tori Martin.

Sophomore Lea Kuehnel smiles for her first day of school with host sister, seventh grader Tori Martin.


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The Assist Program

   Try to sum up the U.S. in a few words. To the modern activist, it’s a work in progress, and to the nature enthusiast, it’s a hikers paradise. However, to sophomore Lea Kuehnel, the new German ASSIST student, the U.S. represents something big, something far more important than ourselves—hamburgers. Yes, hamburgers, and also basketball.

   So besides her preconceptions of obesity and uber-competitive sports, what could have possibly drawn Kuehnel to the US? For Kuehnel, after she decided to pursue her love for experiencing other cultures, she knew that she wanted to be somewhere that spoke English. She decided the ASSIST program could provide her with a vivid cultural experience during her time in the States.

Coming to America

   Coming from a town that rarely gets over 75 degrees fahrenheit in the summer, Kuehnel admits that she was a little skeptical of living in Florida at first because of the heat.

   “I’m usually more of a person who likes winter and [the] cold and hot chocolate,” Kuehnel said. “But then I was like wow that’s great!—Florida! sun!”

   It’s not easy to make friends, especially when you’re the new kid from half-way across the world. However, Kuehnel has enjoyed meeting her new friends sophomores Ziqi Zhang, Ella Norman and Victoria Best.

   “I was so scared about [making friends] all of the flight, and then everybody was so nice,” Kuehnel said. “It is kind of hard sometimes when you don’t know somebody and to just stand up and say ‘Wow, hi, I’m new. Does anyone want to be friends with me?’ But I have this little group now, and they are really cool.”

About Lea

   Kuehnel grew up in the small town of Langenberg, Germany, where she attended the local public school. She and her sister Sarah are very close, and they Skype often to keep in touch. In her free time, she would play badminton and violin.

   “You can express yourself without saying anything,” Kuehnel said, regarding her passion for the violin, which she has been playing for eight years.

   Kuehnel was worried about not being able to take violin lessons in the U.S. Fortunately she is continuing her musical career as a member of the Trinity Chamber Orchestra, the highest level orchestra class offered.

   “I think it’s so great you have orchestra as a class,” Kuehnel said. “In Germany there are some schools that have it as a class, but normal schools don’t have it as a class, so I have to do it in my free time, and that takes a lot of time.”

Life at trinity

   After only a few weeks in the U.S., Kuehnel has engaged in a whirlwind of experiences. From her schedule changing twice already to a Category 5 hurricane, the average person would probably be packing their bags. However, Kuehnel has thoroughly enjoyed activities that are not offered in her hometown, like pottery and the bowling team.

   “I have so many opportunities to try new things too, like the sports,” Kuehnel said. “Or I tried pottery now, and I love it, and I never would have done it in Germany.”

   Kuehnel is also determined to visit the Everglades in South Florida before she leaves. In addition, she hopes to join the basketball team in the winter, and she is excited for her first Homecoming and dressing up for spirit week.

What’s next?

   So far, Kuehnel has been pleasantly surprised by America. Although she was “thrown in” and misses her home, Kuehnel has come to realize that Americans are not as fat as Germans think they are and that a hurricane means she gets to eat all of the ice cream before it melts. Above all, the young 15-year-old has a lot to do in the next eight months in order to accomplish what led her to pick up and leave Germany in the first place—complete immersion in a culture entirely different than her own.