German exchange student completes semester in Purdy

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Hannah Falter, German exchange student, shared a fun moment with her host family before returning to Germany. From left, are: Stephanie, Jake and Ashton Young, Falter, David and Joby Young. Murray Bishoff/

Hannah Falter observes similarities, differences in cultures

Hannah Falter described her fall semester at the Purdy School District as great, a memorable time that she has already recommended to her fellow high school students back home in southern Germany.

Falter returned to Germany on Dec. 21, reciprocating an exchange student experience that began 26 years ago when David Mareth, now the vocational agriculture teacher at Purdy, spent a year with Falter's family.

Falter has stayed with David and Stephanie Young family. The Youngs' daughter, Ashton, turned 17 this fall, providing a match in age and grade for Falter at Purdy High School.

"People are the same, here and in Germany," Falter said. "They do the same stuff and act the same way. Going to school in Purdy was definitely different. My school is more advanced, but not everyone can go there."

Living in southwest Missouri offered a variety of new experiences for Falter, such as country music (which she found she liked), tacos, and rallying around the sports of volleyball, basketball and baseball.

"I liked going to the corn maze," Falter said. "I loved the barn warming. We don't do [homecoming or royalty courts] in Germany."

Falter was one of the royalty candidates at Purdy's barn warming.

Falter found Walmart stores intriguing, saying they are bigger than anything in Germany, and they make shopping fun. She wondered, though, about the ramifications of one chain selling the same products nationwide, coming from an economy that thrives on regional differences.

With no speed limits on the Autobahn, the equivalent to the German interstate highway system, Falter wondered why Americans have so many speed limits. She wondered why so many Americans own high performance cars when they can't fully drive them. Also she noted, "Not a lot of people in Germany drive trucks."

Some teenage activities don't change from country to country, such as use of cell phones. However, Falter said in Germany a cell phone is known as a "handy." The term "cool" is used by teens universally, except in Germany the phrase is said with a bit more of an accent.

"I improved my English," Falter said. "I picked up some slang phrases, like 'hillbilly.' We have people like in Germany, we just don't call them that. I think living here has given me a 'hick' accent, well, not really."

Living conditions in southwest Missouri proved interesting.

"Houses are really far from each other. I don't like that," Falter said. "There's not a lot of people around. If you're an only child, it could be really lonely."

Falter got to know several memorable friends, whom she hopes to see again. Some Purdy students will make a European trip next summer and stay at her grandmother's farm with Mareth serving as host, taking students back to the 500-year-old farm he got to experience as a teen. Falter plans to visit them.

Among her favorite experiences were traveling with Kitty and Dewey Hammond and family to Colorado on a skiing trip. The Youngs provided Falter with a tour of St. Louis on the way to her flight on Sunday, which took her to New York City for a direct connection home.

Falter enthusiastically recommends undertaking the exchange student experience. She already has one of her good friends back home jealous for not getting to go.

"We all learn English in school," she said. "You just get a different experience in a different country."

Falter found that while traveling to Missouri with her family, Americans often approached them in a very friendly way, asking if there was some way they could help.

"That was very nice," she said.

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