A Year Across The World

Three students travel from Europe to spend a school year at Central


Nila Worm

Sophomores Pascal Kunzi, Arne Seifert, and Nila Worm attend the St. Louis Festival of Nations on August 28 with their host families. Photo courtesy of Nila Worm.

Maya Sagett, Features Editor

This July, three brave high school students traveled across the world to be exchange students in America. Sophomores Nila Worm, Pascal Kunzi, and Arne Seifert have been navigating the challenges of culture shocks, making new friends, and living with a family of strangers for the last three months, but all of them know that spending a year abroad will ultimately be an extremely valuable experience.

Through the organization of Youth for Understanding (YFU), both Seifert and Worm came to St. Louis from Germany. Both of their moms had also done an exchange year through YFU when they were teenagers, which is what motivated them to venture through the exhausting process that was preparing for the year abroad.

“When YFU confirmed my year abroad, I was overjoyed and relieved that the effort was worth it,” Seifert said. “Having had some travel experience before my flight to the U.S., the trip wasn’t something I dreaded. Despite all that, I was super excited to fly without my parents to a country that has a totally different culture and tradition compared to my home country.”

After arriving in America, the next challenge arose: meeting their host families and beginning to make connections in their new home. Finding things to bond over and learning to be vulnerable in front of people they’d never met before took tim, but was found to be a wonderful experience for Kunzi after arriving from Switzerland.

“I am very lucky because I can talk to my dad about soccer and other things becaue we both like sports so I get along with them very well and I love them already,” Kunzi said. “I’m very happy that they chose to host me.”

For Worm, meeting her host family was her first introduction to making friends and strong relationships in America, which proved to be a wonderful bond between the whole family.

“I love my new family. My brothers, Thomas and Aiden, were my first best friends,” Worm said. “They are always there for me and they really helped me to go and learn this language and my mom is just a wonderful mom. She’s so nice to me and she’s just an amazing mom and I’m so lucky that she took me and is doing all these things for me without getting a break.”

Sophomore Arne Seifert poses in his soccer jersey, where he plays for Central’s JV team. Photo by Stephen Rutherford.

Before school started, everyone got the opportunity to make friends at Parkway Central by participating in a fall sport. Worm is on the field hockey team, where she found her first strong group of friends and began to feel more comfortable in her new home.

“It was pretty hard to find new friends because you’re in a new country, you learn a new country, you learn a new language, and I’m a really shy person, so I was a little bit unsure what to say the first two weeks,” Worm said. “Then I got to field hockey and there it was finally pretty easy to find new friends. They’re all really nice and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

Kunzi and Seifert are both on Central’s boy’s soccer team, which allowed them to adjust to the new environment quickly and gain advice on how to navigate the coming school year.

“I was able to make many new friends through the soccer team, but also through the band, which is why I would recommend everyone join as many clubs as possible,” Seifert said.

“Since I play soccer and got along with the team pretty well it wasn’t actually that hard to make new friends,” Kunzi said. “In classes, it’s a bit harder because there’s a lot of new people but I try to talk to as many as I can.”

When pre-season came to a close, Kunzi, Seifert, and Worm finally got to embark on their first day in an American high school, where they learned firsthand the differences between the American and European school systems.

“In Switzerland, we can’t choose our classes and just have to do what the government tells us to do, so we have classes with the same class every day for some years,” Kunzi said. “Also, our homework doesn’t get graded in my country as long as you do good on tests and quizzes.”

Coming from Germany also brought many new experiences to Worm and Seifert, where they have a different schedule every day of the week, and the students are not the only ones to transfer classrooms every hour.

“Something that differs between the two school systems is that teachers in Germany do not have their own classrooms,” Seifert said. “Not only do the students have to change rooms after each subject, but so do the teachers. I honestly have to say that I would prefer it if the teachers had their own classrooms, like here in the U.S.”

Being able to leave their friends, family, and native language and culture was not an easy decision to make, but upon arriving in America, all of the exchange students learned how special and immesurable this year would be for them.

“One of my main reasons why I did the exchange year was to exchange cultures and traditions,” Seifert said. “I really like to educate people from other countries about my culture, traditions, and history so that they can learn new things that they probably wouldn’t learn in school.”

School and new friendships, however, were not the only things that would take some getting used to. In Germany and Switzerland, eating healthy and maintaining an active, lavish lifestyle is a staple for everyone there. Coming to America brought many changes to those aspects of their lives, as well.

“My favorite thing is probably the food because there are so many places to eat for a good price, which actually isn’t a thing in Switzerland because everything is expensive there,” Kunzi said.

Sophomore Pascal Kunzi plays soccer on Central’s JV team. Photo by Stephen Rutherford.

When the school year comes to a close and Nila, Pascal, and Arne will have to depart back to their homes in Europe, the ultimate hope is that they can return with memories, friendships, knowledge, and experiences that will last a lifetime.

“I’m so glad and thankful that I can be a part of the PCH community,” Seifert said. “I’m hoping for a super great school year and I’m convinced that by the end of the school year I’ve settled into the community at our school so well that I don’t even want to go back to Germany.”