Student Spotlight: Foreign exchange student experiencing new culture in America


Nick Whalen

Leonie Bruch, foreign exchange student from German, poses in front of a German-themed Christmas tree.

Leonie Bruch (right) sledding with her friends in Germany

Moving to a new country, and leaving your family and friends behind is a tough reality. But that is the reality for Bethel Park’s German foreign exchange student Leonie Bruch.

I’ve always wanted to see the world and experience another culture.

— Leonie Bruch






Leonie is 15 years old and became a foreign exchange student by applying for a scholarship called CBYX, which gives students in Germany an opportunity to live and study in America. She says the hardest part of moving to America is her decision to leave her family and home behind for a while.

“I’ve always wanted to see the world and experience another culture,” said Bruch. Who decided to make the journey all the way from Saarbruecken, a city of about 100,000 people that sits in the western part of Germany, right along the border of France.

Leonie likes to spend her free time reading, watching sports, visiting stadiums, and listening to music. Her favorite sports teams are Borussia Monchengladbach, a soccer team based north of her hometown of Saarbruecken, and Adler Mannheim. Adler Mannheim is a German hockey team that has won the German Hockey League eight times, seven of those coming since 1994.

Leonie says her favorite experience about America so far was visiting Niagara Falls. However, what shocked her the most about America is the drivers.

“Americans are really messy drivers, which scared me at first. But now I’m used to it,” she said. She also said that Americans eat a lot more meat compared to back in Germany.

When it comes to the school systems in the two countries, they are extremely different. Germans have multiple options for school besides just one high school like America.

“Almost everything is different here, for example, the schedule is completely different.”

The school days in Germany can have different lengths, varying from six to eight hours a day. Each class period is 45 minutes long, and after every period is a five-minute break. After every second period is a 15-minute break, giving students much more time to breathe between their classes.

A German Doner Kebab

Another major difference is school sports. School sports are a major part of the American high school experience, with some high schools around the country building stadiums that sit over 5,000 people for their high school football events.

However, in Germany, there are no school sports, and Leonie pointed that out as one of the biggest differences between schools in the two countries.

If Leonie could have something from Germany, she says she would have good kebabs in America, “I know you can get them in bigger cities, but in Germany, you can get them at every corner.”

Kebabs in Germany aren’t the same kebabs we think of here at home. They’re of Turkish origin and are usually made with chicken or beef cooked on a vertical rotisserie.

She says her favorite food from Germany is a food called “Geheirate,” though. That word translates directly to English as “married.” It’s a combination of potatoes and cooked dough.

However, if she could take something back to Germany with her from America, she says that she wishes they would speak English in Germany. “My opinion is that German does not sound as pretty as English does.”

Leonie has been learning English since her sixth year in school, about a year before we begin learning foreign languages here in Bethel Park. She says the most difficult part about mastering the language has been learning how to pronounce the “thr-” sound, which is a sound that doesn’t exist in the German language. Words like three, through, etc. are naturally difficult for a native German speaker.

Leonie pointed out the people who have given her rides as the people she’s most thankful for since coming to America. “Otherwise I would be lost, so thanks to those people,” she said.

She will study in America through the end of this school year before returning home to Germany. BPHS students can apply for the same scholarship Leonie won by visiting the CBYX website, no German language knowledge is required! This scholarship also sent BPHS sophomore River Hendrych-Bondra to study abroad in Germany during this school year.