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Exchange of a Lifetime

Klara Günther

Klara Günther

BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Staff Writer
hopeoakes@bellsouth.net

It’s not unusual for a teenage girl to want a little change in her life.  Most girls change things like their hairstyles, clothing choices, or boyfriends.  When Klara Günther wanted to experience something new and different, she ended up halfway around the world.
Klara is a native of Frankfurt, Germany, which has a population of almost 700,000 people. She has spent the last nine months as a Foreign Exchange Student in Caledonia.
“Germany is a little boring compared to America, and I wanted to get away from normal life.” Klara said.  “Plus, it’s a lot easier to get a good job or get into a good college if you have been a student in America.”
Once she’d made her decision to become an exchange student, she had visions of experiencing life in a city like San Francisco or New York. Klara said she  was a little surprised and slightly disappointed to find herself in a small town like Caledonia, Mississippi.
“But I love it here, I love the South,” Klara said. “I didn’t expect that!”
She said she did expect to miss her family, though. Klara has been in Mississippi since August 3 and has not seen her family since she left.  Klara said she is thankful that with the help of modern technology she is able to talk a lot with her mom and brother, Andreas, through texts and Skype, but says it’s hard not share every aspect of her day, whenever she wants.
Klara said her first semester at Caledonia was a little difficult.  Along with adjusting to being so far away from her home, family, and friends, she had to go to a new school and speak in a language.  Naturally shy, Klara said she had heard that kids in America were really outgoing, so she was surprised that no one talked to her much on that first school day.  It hadn’t occurred to her that they would be a little shy, too.  Gradually, she began to meet others and was invited to many activities and parties.  One of her favorites was the Halloween Haunted Hayride.  She was originally supposed to stay just one semester, but having settled in so well, Klara wanted to stay longer.  Due to unexpected family problems in her original host family, Klara ended up coming to stay with Alecia Hare and her family in November.  One of the first things they did as a family was go to Disney World for Thanksgiving.  Klara said she  adores Alecia and her adopted family.
“They have been so sweet and supportive,” Klara said. “Living with them has been so much fun.”
Klara has travelled to Disney World a few times, including a trip with fellow area exchange students. Klara said she loved the roller coasters and the Harry Potter Park at Universal Studios Orlando.  Another of her favorites was a day trip down to Jackson to see the Mississippi State Capitol, which in her words was “pretty cool.”
This school year has flown by for Klara.  Soon, her father, stepmother, and brother will be coming to pick her up.  They are planning a month-long road trip across America to the west coast and then back to Atlanta where they’ll fly back home to Frankfurt.  Klara is not eligible to be an exchange student again, but she is considering applying to college at Mississippi State University.  When asked her advice for other exchange students, Klara said to be optimistic.
“Prepare,” Klara said. “Don’t set your hopes too high on a big city, or you might be shocked.  I was, but it turned out to be wonderful. I love living in the county and boots and country boys!”  One thing Klara said she has not been able to do is to go mud riding. Although eager to get back home and see her family and friends, Klara knows she will miss her life here, as well as the friendly people she has met.
“Everybody here has such a big heart,”Klara said. I’m going to miss that, a lot.”

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