Photo by Darcy Leber

The foreign exchange students are (left) juniors Johanna Krick, Chloe Muller, Jurek Bergman, Benedict Bendlin, Maria Bujan-Puente, Alvaro Romero and Girolamo Anselmo.

Stepping on American Soil

More than double the amount of foreign exchange students than last year attend SHS

September 9, 2022

There are seven foreign exchange students attending SHS this year. Follow along to get to know them better as they experience the American high school life and overcome obstacles.

Chloe Muller


French exchange student Chloe Muller, imagined America to be similar to the movies she had seen. The school, how people socialized, there was already an image imprinted in her head.
Once she arrived, she noticed around two weeks in that people were also more open to conversation with strangers, whereas in France, it is uncommon to speak with strangers.
She remembers being at the supermarket with her host mother Mindy Heller, and a woman suggested that they try a cake that she liked. At first, Muller was confused as to why a stranger was speaking with her. She later got used to the idea of interacting with strangers.
Arriving at SHS, Muller appreciated how she was quickly welcomed into the culture.
‘’I like to talk to people because they’re very nice,” Muller said.
Muller has always wanted to visit New York City because she has seen Christmas movies based on New York.
Heller decided to host Muller because she felt that having a student around the age of her own kids would be helpful to them and Muller would be a lifelong friend. Heller has experience in hosting students because her family hosted a Japanese exchange student.
“[Muller]’s super sweet and has a good personality and is just good about jumping into new things and navigating new situations,“ Heller said, “She’s been really great to host.”

Alvaro Romero


Junior Alvaro Romero has been sport oriented for most of his life due to his family’s upbringing. His brother played soccer and his grandfather was a professional soccer player.
In Seville, Spain, he played on a soccer team called Los Remedios United. He brought his love for Soccer to SHS.
“I started playing soccer when I was six years old, and I love it,” Romero said.
In America, soccer practices seem to have more of an objective than they do in Spain, but he does enjoy the practices. He practices every day and frequently has games.
This year along with soccer, he plans to play lacrosse with his host brother Anselmo and Wright, his host father and coach.
In Spain, the meal times are far different than they are in America. They eat lunch around 3 p.m. and dinner around 10 p.m., while Americans typically eat earlier.
He went to New York City for a convention with other foreign exchange students in his company, Hola USA, and spent three days there. He made many Italian and German friends while exploring.
He’s already made many friends with his soccer teammates and people in weight lifting. He does find it difficult to be away from his family and friends though.
“I want to try to make it the year of my life, and meet a lot of people,” Romero said.

Jurek Bergman


German exchange student Jurek Bergman has been playing American football since elementary school. His teacher had introduced the sport to him so Bergman joined a club called Berlin Adler, to continue his newfound hobby.
‘‘I really like the sport and I enjoy playing it,’’ Bergman said.
He played his first varsity football game at SHS against Roncalli on Aug. 19 and was in the linebacker position. He noticed that the players are larger in size here than in Germany.
Along with that, the markets, school and food portions are much bigger to what he is used to. His school in Berlin is smaller, and teachers did not have their own classrooms. They moved from class to class just like the students in America.
The reason America was his goal once he applied to do an exchange year was because he wanted to improve his English and experience a country that is outside of Europe.
He hopes to travel to states that surround Indiana and went to a pre season Colts football game with his host brother, Zeke Petty. They were able to go to this game because family friends gave them the tickets.
“Every time we will go see something that’s really American, that’s all cool to see how it shocks him,” Petty said.
Petty was long aware that Bergman would stay with him but he was shocked another person was living in the house. He was later able to get used to this especially since he has older siblings who do not live with him.
“It’s nice having an older brother around the house,’’ Petty said.

Johanna Krick


The relationship between students and teachers was something new for German exchange student Johanna Krick.
In Frankfurt, Germany, teachers were not very open about their personal lives or information with students. Krick did not know any of her teacher’s first names or any information about their background.
“It’s really strict and we know nothing about them,’’ Krick said. ‘‘It’s about the performance you give, none about yourself.’’
Her host mother, English teacher and dance coach Jessi Walpole, was convinced to have an exchange student by Grehn. Grehn sent Walpole profiles for potential exchange students to host.
‘‘As I am going through them, Our family chose Johanna because she looked like she would fit in with our family,’’ Walpole said. ‘‘She just looked like a nice human being.’’
Krick was able to fit in with the Walpole’s because she liked dance, had the same religious beliefs, and loved little kids.
Walpole encouraged her to try out for dance so that she could participate in school clubs. It was easier because she can be at practice with her and transportation will not be a problem. On Friday, Aug. 19, Krick made the team with six years of experience.
“I am going to take [the dance team jacket] home with me because it’s the best clothes and best memories,” Krirk said. “Nobody else has Southport shirts in my German city.”
Walpole feels as if Krick is her own daughter because Krick is open with her and her other daughters love her very much. She is like a role model for them.
Walpole plans to take her to Disney World in October and Daytona Beach. She wants her to see new places such as states that they will drive through to get there. She will visit Chicago in November.
“I am excited to see the U.S. a little bit, to get to know the country I am in, I have never been here as a tourist,” Krick said.

Maria Bujan-Puente


Junior Maria Bujan-Puente’s love for volleyball transferred from Spain to Indiana the minute she arrived.
She remembers contacting Coach Hoffman for information regarding the volleyball team at SHS.
She has been playing volleyball for seven years and practices every week day in the FIeldhouse.
“I’m comfortable with my team here … ,” Bujan-Puente said. “Coaches are very interested in giving their best, and I love the team spirit.”
She is originally from the northern part of Santander, Spain, which is only 10 minutes away from the beach.
The new schedule has been exhausting, as school starts much earlier at SHS than it does back in her home country.
“School starts almost two hours earlier and I have practice every single day, which I love but it’s tiring,” Bujan-Puente said.
Little things from the appearance of houses, to how people socialize are very different, even social media.

Danielle Grehn, Maria’s host mom, has been hosting students for two years now. She talked to Maria months before she actually came here.
“For Maria, I talked to her for months before she came and we already had a bond,” Grehn said. “And when coming here, we instantly clicked and felt like meeting an online friend for the first time in real life.”
She is excited about football games and dances at SHS. Bujan-Puente would love to see how her English will progress.
“I would like to finish my experience knowing that I tried as many new things as possible and not regretting anything,” Bujan-Puente said.

Benedict Bendlin

Benedict Bendlin

German foreign exchange student Benedict Bendlin was able to experience school spirit for the first time at the pep rally on Aug. 19. While watching the pep rally, he was amazed by how large the Fieldhouse was. Back in his school in Lüneburg, Germany, it only consisted of classes and very little sports.
‘We just go to school, to go to school,’’ Bendlin said.
He remembers watching a girls volleyball game in the gym, and it sparked the idea of trying out for the boys volleyball team. He has also been playing volleyball in a club for the past five years.
Bendlin has traveled around since he came to SHS. He visited the canal in downtown Indianapolis with his host mother where a stranger ended up having a casual conversation with him. He was shocked. In Germany, it is not usual for strangers to talk amongst one another.
“I was like, ‘I do not know you. Why are you talking to me?’ Yet it’s completely normal. I think it’s completely different,’’ Bendlin said.
Although Bendlin might have culture shock to small things such as speaking to strangers, he loves American music.
Sophomore Carter McDonough found out that he was going to have Bendlin in his house as an exchange student six months ago. His mother had the idea of hosting an exchange student because her family hosted.
‘‘He’s interesting. He’s quite the character,’’ McDonough said.

Girolamo Anselmo


Junior Girolamo Anselmo remembers being excited to be a part of the marching band at SHS. He went from marching for hours, to learning how to dance.
“My experience here is fantastic and, I finally have made some friends.” Anselmo said.
Practice for the SHS marching band is earlier than what he is used to. His band, Banda musicale “Giuseppe Verdi” di Marausa, would also march much slower than what he had seen in the SHS marching band.
Back in his home country, he marched for a church and got paid to do so, since it lasted for two days. They march during the Holy Week, which consists of Easter and Good Friday.
Many of Anslemo’s friends in Italy are musicians. They play instruments such as the drums, piano and guitar, which ultimately expanded his knowledge in music.
Aside from the marching band, he plans on joining the winter drumline. He also looks forward to playing lacrosse since his host father, Orchestra teacher Thomas Wright, is the coach.
“This year we’re excited because Anselmo is from Italy and we’ve never had a kid from Italy,” Wright said.
Wright has hosted 46 foreign exchange students over the past 20 years of being a host parent with his wife. Anselmo is now one of the many students who have joined this diverse family.
He is originally from Sicily, Italy. Back home, he has been learning to be an authentic Italian pizza maker for around a year now. Initially, he was taught through a family friend.
He’s looking forward to visiting New York City in the spring. The association that helped Anselmo come to the U.S. will also be bringing him to Washington.
He lives with his host brother Alvaro, and says it is a calm environment. There are six people living in the house, but they get up at slightly different times.
“I thought [America] was fantastic,” Anselmo said. “And it is.”

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