November 8, 2022 at 2:43 p.m.
German student carries on family tradition in Melrose
Carla Buerger hasn’t had much time to get homesick.
The daughter of Gunther Glabbatz and Claudia Buerger of Frankfort, Germany, she arrived in Melrose the end of August and is staying with Mark and Jen Traeger and their son, Andrew. She had a good idea of what to expect when she arrived in the area, thanks to her father.
“He actually said it’s not like in the movies. Don’t get your expectations up,” she said Oct. 5 at the Traeger home. “The way he talked about it, Melrose was the best place on earth.”
Gunther knows first-hand. Not only was he an exchange student who graduated from Melrose High School in 1988, but he lived at the home of Mark Traeger’s parents, George and Ruth Traeger.
“Gunther’s brother, Volker, had stayed with Don and Gerry Meyer (in the 1970s),” Mark Traeger said. “He became friends with my brother, Ron. When Volker came back for a visit, he brought Gunther along. We hung out together and became friends. In 1986, he wrote to my parents and asked if he could stay with us during the school year.”
“Now, it’s kind of a family tradition,” Buerger added.
Since arriving in Melrose, Buerger has found herself in a whirlwind of events and activities. There have been trips to the Minnesota State Fair and Albany Pioneer Days, experiencing Melrose Area High School homecoming and adapting to a new family structure.
“At home, I have a younger sister (Greta),” she said. “Here, I have a brother.”
She was referring to Andrew, a junior at Melrose High School. Andrew also had to make an adjustment. He now has a sibling.
“I got used to her being here pretty quick. It really wasn’t that hard,” Andrew Traeger said.
Jen Traeger enjoys the different side to their family dynamics, having another female in the house.
“It’s been very fun,” Jen said. “I don’t know if it’s daughter versus son, but it’s fun having another person in the house and seeing how they interact.”
Because of the shared family history, the blending has gone well. It helped that Andrew Traeger was involved in something Buerger would not have experienced in her Frankfort school.
“I’m in the musical. We don’t do musicals at our school,” she said.
Buerger even has a singing part.
“In Germany, I am in a choir so that is more of my area,” she said.
The musical is one difference she sees between her school at home and Melrose High School.
“They (Melrose) have all the activities in the school,” she said. “It is the same people you are with in class, and you hang out with them.”
She considers her school in Germany more challenging.
“I would say the German schools are tougher,” she said. “You don’t have as many choices for classes and there are more required classes.”
Among required classes in Germany are languages. Buerger has had eight years of English and takes Spanish.
“In Germany, you need to take two languages, besides German,” she said. “My dad needed to take Latin in school.”
Her favorite class in Melrose has been history taught by Ryan Dusha.
“I like U.S. history. It is so different from what I am used to,” she said. “I sometimes get asked, ‘How is that in Germany?’”
There will be chances for her to absorb more U.S. history later this year. As part of her stay, the Traegers are planning a November trip to Washington, D.C.
Brueger’s interest in sports will have them attending Vikings football games, Timberwolves basketball games and Gopher volleyball games. She is also planning to join the high school basketball program.
“Basketball is my favorite sport,” she said. “I like to watch soccer but not play it. It is always too cold.”
She is interested in all sports, something the Traegers appreciate. Eligibility rules will see Buerger limited to playing junior varsity games.
She is looking forward to Christmas and seeing snow.
Buerger has already been able to check off one thing on her to-do list.
“I wanted to eat a corn dog,” she said. “Three days after I was here, I ate one at the state fair.”
It is a different food she misses, though.
“I miss home baked bread and good cheeses,” she said.
Buerger and the Traegers treasure the special connection their families share as they carry on an exchange tradition.