Sophomores Chiara Barantke, Emma Belliveau and Aidan Galati eat cake at a going-away party thrown for Barantke by French teacher Richard Day. (Photo by Elena Lipman)

Sophomore visits from Germany for an ‘authentic’ U.S. high school experience

Chiara Barantke missed Germany in the six weeks she spent in the U.S. But what she missed most was  the German hard dark bread called schwarzbrot.

She also said she missed ordering fries with both ketchup and mayonnaise, because in America one would get funny looks for ordering “fries, red-white.”

Barantke, a foreign student from the city of Ratekau, visited SCDS from Sept. 9-Oct. 16. to see how American schools differ from those in Germany and to find out what it’s like to be an American high-school student.

“It’s very different from the Hollywood movies we’ve watched in Germany,” Barantke said.

“Here it’s not a big building. It’s more like tiny bungalows.”

She was also surprised by American slang.

In sophomore English, students read an article about Americans’ preference for brand-name drugs over generic drugs that thoroughly confused Barantke.

“When they talked about drugs, I thought there was only heroin and cocaine,” Barantke said.

“I didn’t know they use the terms ‘drugs’ and ‘medicine’ interchangeably in America.”

Sophomore Zoë Bowlus helped translate the more difficult English terms into easily learned concepts for Barantke.

“If she didn’t know what something meant, she’d ask,” Bowlus said.

“She asked me what ‘although’ meant. It was hard to explain because we grow up with these terms.”

In addition to English, Barantke also took Spanish, French and biology.Untitled-1

“I also tried taking math here, but it was hard to understand it in English,” Barantke said.

Barantke took classes for only four of the usual six class periods.

However, in Germany Barantke has up to 34 lessons a week, from subjects like Latin and German to art classes and sports.

Barantke finds it easier with this system, rather than Country Day’s six periods a day.

“(In Germany) I have physics on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Barantke said.

“That way I can do my homework over the weekend and have more free time after school.”

Barantke’s favorite class was English, taught by Patricia Fels. She enjoyed the style of teaching in the class.

“In the texts we read in Fels’s English class, we looked for quotes instead of writing reviews for the books like we do in Germany,” she said.

“(In Germany) we read old-fashioned German books from 200 years ago. It’s not very interesting.”

She said class sizes and class etiquette are also different.

“We have 25 students in each class, and it’s not so relaxed like it is (at Country Day),” Barantke said.

“We are not allowed to talk during class. Usually we can’t have water in there, either. I mean, we can have a water bottle on our desk, but we have to ask for permission to open it.

“They don’t collect the homework each class, either. And we don’t have big tests every week, like in the language classes. We have one big test at the end of each term.”

Despite the frequent tests, Barantke was a shining student in all of her classes, according to teachers.

“It was interesting having someone in the class who speaks German,” Fels said.

“She was a very good student, and I was very sorry to see her go.”

French teacher Richard Day also enjoyed having Chiara in his classes.

“In her willingness to participate, she seemed very natural from the beginning. It was really cool the way she asked questions; she spoke up in class. She wasn’t shy at all.”

Since Day grew up in Germany, he enjoyed talking about his life there with Barantke.

Barantke said she really enjoyed her experience because everyone was so friendly.

“Everybody here was very welcoming, and I don’t think it would be the same in a big public school,” Barantke said.

“People’s friendliness can be a bit superficial (in America),” said Day. “At first I don’t think she understood what I meant, but she still appreciated that everyone is smiling and friendly.”

Barantke stayed with her aunt, Melanie Aryana, who appreciated everyone’s kindness towards her niece.

“When she started at Country Day, Sue Nellis (head of the high school) introduced her to everybody,” Aryana said.

“I think that was a good idea because then everyone knew her. In elective.people actually approached her and talked to her.”

Aryana also praised the after-school activities that helped Barantke get to know her classmates.

“She really loved the sophomore movie night and the Ancil Hoffman picnic,” Aryana said.

“It was great for her to have something to do outside of the school with the students.”

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