Four foreign exchange students adjust to way of life, athletics at Moffat County High School

Three of the students are from Germany, while the other is from Spain.

The four foreign exchange students on the MCHS Basketball team, Yara Jiménez-Arellano, Emilie Schnirch, Helen Tremmel, and Evi Dietrich pose together.

If you have the chance to catch some Moffat County girls basketball this season, chances are you’ll see some faces you might not recognize.

This year — of all years — the Bulldogs have four foreign exchange students on the roster. Emilie Schnirch, Evi Dietrich and Helen Tremmel came to Moffat County for the 2020-21 school year from Germany, while Yara Jiménez-Arellano Alonso comes from Spain.

The teens are living in Moffat County with host families for the entire school year, after which they’ll head back home. For now, they’re learning about the way of life not only in Moffat County, but in the United States as well, all while competing in high school sports that might not be the norm in their home country.

While the United States is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Tremmel still wanted to come to Craig and experience a new country.

“I think it is a different year than normal but I still wanted to do the exchange program, because if you have the opportunity to go somewhere else and learn a new language, you always take the opportunity, because it will help you for your entire life with your job and everything,” Tremmel said.

The girls miss home for many reasons, from food to culture and everything in between. That includes Tremmel, who misses the food at home in Germany.

“I actually just miss the food because I think that American food is not that healthy,” Tremmel added.

And with Berlin and Madrid being eight hours ahead of Craig, keeping up with friends and family has been a struggle for the girls.

“I call my dad once a week and I message my friends every time I have free time,” Tremmel said. “So when I have a lunch break I message them.”

The fact that the teens can participate in sports at MCHS and be in person at school is something that differentiates their experiences this year from their peers in Germany, Evi Dietrich said.

“I’m just happy to be here right now, because I know in Germany everyone is in a lockdown and they can’t go to school, they can’t hang out or do any sports,” Dietrich said. “I’m happy we could do cross country and now basketball and stuff like that. I’m just happy to be here and to experience a little bit of the high school experience.”

The girls have enjoyed the distinctly American experience of high school football and the “Friday Night Lights” culture that comes with that. That experience is something that Schnirch will miss, at least.

“It’s sad that we don’t have it in Germany and I’m going to miss this,” Schnirch said. “The feeling of the support from the school and having fun after school, too. I really like it.”

While in a new country around new faces, names and learning a new culture, they’re also adjusting to playing basketball competitively for the first time. Basketball is just a unit in Physical Education in Spain and Germany.

“Yeah, like in P.E. you do that for one month,” Jiménez-Arellano said. “You play with your friends and you’re just like….nobody cares.”

That’s much different in Moffat County, where the whole community cares about and supports the Bulldogs.

Adjusting to U.S. Education

Not only has the move to the United States for the school year been a culture shock for the four, it’s really changed how they see the education system as well, from learning about topics from a different angle, or interacting with their teachers.

As they are all in high school, one of the things that they are learning about in class now is World War II and the Holocaust. What’s interesting to Tremmel is the differences between the way that the U.S. education system teaches World War II, compared to the way Germany teaches it.

“I think back home, they teach the students that World War II was not a good thing and it should never happen again. They make it really obvious that it was not a good thing that happened and I think it’s the same over here, but they don’t teach it that aggressive,” Tremmel said. “It’s more like they tell you what happened, but since they were not responsible for all the people dying in the Holocaust.”

The structure of classes in Germany and Spain are different than in the United States, as the teachers in those countries are walking from classroom to classroom instead of the kids moving classrooms for each class. The students have noticed that the teachers at MCHS are nicer than those back in Germany, too.

“I feel like the teachers here are more friendly with you. You can talk with them,” Schnirich said. “Where in Germany…some teachers are really mean and you can’t really talk with them.”

The teachers at Moffat County High School are more passionate about their subject matter than those in Spain, too, which allows the students to learn more in their individual classes.

“I feel like teachers are more interested in what they are teaching, like for example, our biology teacher,” Jiménez-Arellano said. “I really enjoy how she tells it, she tells it as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.”

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