Greetings From Germany: Johanna Wistuba’s Experience as a Foreign Exchange Student


Mylynn Hopper

“I really like the competitive teams. It can be really stressful to know that everything here is really competitive and that you have to do your best.” Wistuba explains that while the competitive nature of school and its sports teams can be stressful at times, it’s still an aspect of American school that she enjoys.

–    Kempsville High School hosted six foreign exchange students during the 2019-2020 school year. This is a part of an on-going feature series on these students and their experiences.


There are a variety of students here at Kempsville that come from different backgrounds and different walks of life. Some come from different cities, some from different states, and some students even come from different countries. Johanna Lea Wistuba is one of those students. 


Wistuba, 17, is from Berlin, Germany. When looking into foreign exchange programs she was interested in many different locations but ended up deciding on America. 


“For me, it was hard to decide what country I want to go to because there are so many countries, and they’re all so different, and they’re all so interesting,” said Wistuba. “I think in the end I decided to go to America was really just because I wanted to know if it’s really like in the movies.” 


“The other reason was that because I was interested in everything in the world, in America you can go to a really warm state or a really cold state, so you could get everything. You could have really different experiences in America depending on what state you go.”  


One would think that adjusting to a new country and its culture would be a difficult concept to grasp. However, the task wasn’t difficult for Wistuba, as she claimed that the two countries aren’t dissimilar. 


“The funny thing is that I wouldn’t even say that it’s completely different. I would think if I would have gone to Argentina or something, I would have had a culture shock.  I kind of knew what to expect when I came here I think because of all the movies that I’ve watched. I kind of knew what to expect when I came here and it’s not completely different. Like, we don’t have completely different cultures,” Wistuba explained. 


Despite not having any major differences, there is still one thing Wistuba noticed in America that differs from her home in Germany.


“One of the major things that’s really, really different is the transportation. In Germany, we can get everywhere with a train, with a bus, with a subway and that’s something I really prefer in Germany,” Wistuba said, pointing out it can be difficult needing someone to drive you around everywhere coming from a country where children learn to get around by themselves at a young age.


Although there may not be many differences between the countries themselves, the same can’t be said for the schools and how they function. 


“It’s hard to explain because it’s really different. What I really like here in this school is that I’d say you have  more younger teachers, and the relationship between the students and the teachers is really just like being friends with each other. That’s something we don’t really have in Germany,” said Wistuba. “The other part is that we have a different schedule. We don’t have A and B days; we have like, I’d say maybe, I’m guessing, 12 different classes that we’re taking each year, so we kind of take Chemistry, Biology, and Physics all the time, so we don’t really have the course that we can pick. We also have eight different classes each day and each class is only 45 minutes long.” 


Along with this, Wistuba also says that she enjoys the competitive nature of school in America, which she finds is different from German schools.


“The school’s so competitive and you have so many activities with your school and the football games and all the stuff that’s going on, that so many clubs and teams do something and are really busy. That’s really nice.”  Wistuba classifies student activity as one of her favorite aspects of her time in the U.S.


Wistuba has also identified the fact that German schools typically don’t close and lock their classroom doors like most schools do in America as a primary difference that she’s noticed. 

Mylynn Hopper
“There’s always something to do, and that’s really great that I’m busy all the time, not getting bored,” Junior Johanna Lea Wistuba states as she lists some of her favorite pastimes and appreciates that there is so much to do in America. Wistuba, 17, thought hard about her decision, but ultimately chose to come to America due to its appeal from the movies and its diversity.


“The other part that we don’t have in Germany is closed doors, that you can’t get out of the class, that you lock the doors. I get that it’s a safety thing here, but we don’t have that in Germany.”  


Despite the many differences between the schools in America and Germany, Wistuba enjoys the experience of attending an American school and is active around Kempsville. 


“Right now, I’m auditioning for the musical, and I’m on the wrestling team. I’m going to have to figure out how to put that all in one if I’m going to get involved but yeah. Mainly, I’d say [I’m on] the wrestling team; I spend a lot of time there because before the season started, I didn’t even know that it was gonna be every day – and so exhausting – but it’s still a lot of fun.” Wistuba was in drama club as well, and helped out with the winter play, although wasn’t able to balance both wrestling practice and drama practice. 


Outside of school, Wistuba has also been enjoying her time in America by having new experiences and exploring the culture.     


“I’ve been to New York City with my host family. That was awesome, too. And I’ve been to a real football game in a stadium; it was really great. It was a really American experience, and I had a lot of fun. And I’d say the experience with the other foreign exchange students here that go through the same stuff and all that.”  


Overall, Wistuba hopes to gain knowledge of herself and the world around her through her time and experience in America.  


“I really just want to find myself. See what I want to do after all this. I just wanna see the world and experience new things. Just enjoying that I’m seventeen and not worrying about other stuff, enjoying my life. Take every opportunity that I can get to see something new.”