October 26, 2022 at 7:14 p.m.
Exchange students talk life in Sauk Centre
Four young women from different countries are calling Sauk Centre their home for the duration of the school year.
The women all come from big cities in their home countries of Austria, Germany, Italy and Belgium, and the small-town, rural life of Sauk Centre has been an adjustment.
“I wanted to come to America because you always see America in the movies, and I wanted to see how it really is,” said Lisa Straninger of Austria.
Straninger, along with Martina Acciari of Italy, Sophia Mueller of Germany and Sixtime Deraymaeker of Belgium, are enrolled at Sauk Centre High School this year.
Each of the exchange students said they have been shocked by the lack of public transportation in rural Minnesota; each comes from a large city and relies on public transportation to get from place to place. Additionally, they all agree that American students are more casual in their style of dress for school. Many of them also see a difference in the classes American students take as opposed to classes they take back home.
While each of these students comes from different countries, they all agree that life in central Minnesota is pretty great so far.
All four girls are looking forward to going downhill skiing in Minnesota, as that is an activity they do on a regular basis back home. They each have experienced snow up in the mountains, but when it snows in their hometowns, the snow only lasts a couple of days.
Lisa Straninger (15)
Straninger has a 12-year-old brother and a four-year-old half-brother back in Austria. She joined the Sauk Centre tennis team because she played tennis at a club in her hometown when she was younger.
Her favorite class in school at Sauk Centre is the cooking class.
In Austria, at her school, she said the teachers move from classroom to classroom and the students stay put, except for classes that need special equipment like science. She takes three different language classes (German, English, Spanish) back home.
The biggest difference for her from Austria to America is that, here in America, she knows people when she goes places like the grocery store and the movie theater.
“Back home, our city is so big; I don’t see people that I know when I go out,” Straninger said.
Getting to know the community of Sauk Centre and seeing all the lakes has been a great experience already for Straninger.
When it comes to foods, she said her favorite American foods are sweet and salty popcorn and burgers.
“We have burgers back home, but they are much better here,” Straninger said.
Straninger is also excited to go snowmobiling with her host family because she tried it once up in the mountains back home and would like to go again.
Martina Acciari (17) of Italy
Martina Acciari has a 15-year-old sister back home in Bologna, Italy, where she lives with her mom and dad. Her hometown has a population of more than 1 million, so adjusting to life in Sauk Centre with a population of 4,500 has been the biggest change.
“I didn’t expect this area to be so pretty,” Acciari said. “I am used to a big city. I didn’t think I would like being in a small city, but now I like it better.”
Sauk Centre may not have as many people as Acciari’s hometown, but she said the people are much friendlier in America.
“In Europe, people don’t greet you on the street like the people here do,” she said.
Acciari wanted to come to the states to see what it is like. Her favorite class at Sauk Centre High School is Spanish because she likes her classmates and teacher. At school in Italy, Acciari studied four languages. School in America, she said, is much simpler, and there is less homework.
Things are simpler when it comes to attire as well. She said American students don’t dress up as much.
“It is very important to look good when you go out in Italy,” Acciari said.
Acciari communicates with her family back home on a regular basis, and she told them right away that Americans don’t only eat hamburgers and French fries as they had originally thought. Her favorite food so far is chicken strips.
For her, a big change is the transportation. She also noticed the lack of public transportation here in America but said the roads are much safer.
“It is very dangerous to drive in Italy,” Acciari said.
In Italy most people rely on public transportation to go everywhere because gas is so expensive, it is safer than driving and young adults cannot get their drivers license until they are 18.
Sophia Mueller (16)
Sophia Mueller loves the scenic area around Sauk Centre.
“I like the walking trail (Lake Wobegon Trail); I go for walks every day,” Mueller said. “The leaves are so pretty this time of year.”
Mueller has a 15-year-old brother back in Germany and calls her family once a week. She was surprised to find that people in America do not speak French; with Canada so close by, she said she thought their language would carry over. With countries in Europe being so small, most countries have multiple languages spoken throughout the country. Mueller speaks German, French and English.
Her favorite memory of her time here in America is when her host family took her to Wisconsin for a Cranberry Harvest Festival.
“I did not know how they were harvested before, but it was so beautiful and fun,” Mueller said.
When it comes to school, Mueller said her favorite class at Sauk Centre is physics because it is fun and not that hard. She is most looking forward to Prom, Snow Week and trying hockey.
“I have skated before but never played hockey,” Mueller said.
Sixtime Deraymaeker (17)
Sixtime Deraymaeker is from Brussels, Belgium, and is also looking forward to going to Prom and Snow Week at Sauk Centre High School. Deraymaeker has a 15-year-old and 27-year-old brother and a 28-year-old-sister back home in Belgium.
“My favorite class is restaurant class because we have a good group and we don’t have a class like that back home,” Deraymaeker said.
Over time, Deraymaeker has found her favorite American food to be cinnamon rolls. Her favorite activity so far is the trip to South Dakota her host family took her on over the MEA weekend. While there, she saw the badlands, Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon.
Deraymaeker agreed with her fellow exchange students that American school is much easier than back home. Deraymaeker said she would get two to three hours of homework every day and had to take French, English and Spanish classes, with French being her native language. Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch and German.
The biggest difference for Deraymaeker is the small-town atmosphere of Sauk Centre. Her hometown has more than 1 million people, so she is used to crowded places, always having people around everywhere she goes and having to rely on public transportation.
“I like here,” she said. “I know people and people know me. People are very kind.”
While she appreciates life in Sauk Centre, she said she is looking forward to making more trips to her host family’s cabin up north.