Student brings Deutsche perspective to the states

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 17, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/FRASER — The 2014-15 school year is expected to be quite different for one Fraser High School student.

Rather than meeting up with friends after a long summer, Marie, a 15-year-old girl from Hanover, Germany, is experiencing a whole new culture for the first time.

She arrived at her host family’s home in Clinton Township on August 23 as part of the Aspect Foundation’s nonprofit international exchange program.

The program was established in 1985, working with international high schoolers from about 30 different countries. Aspect Foundation Publicity Coordinator Jessie Wright said one of the foundation’s main jobs is to find volunteer host families and schools that would like to host an exchange student for either a semester or an entire year.

Aspect Foundation’s national headquarters is in San Francisco, where field and regional managers oversee different regions of the U.S. and oversee hundreds of local-oriented coordinators. Those coordinators then network and discover reputable host families, and once a host family is vetted and approved, they can look at a student’s interests, heritage and culture, and “kind of get a sense of who might be a good fit.”

“Students come and attend local public high school, usually,” Wright said. “They just really get immersed in American culture and accepted as part of a family and get a real authentic American experience. No experience is alike.”

That’s where the Bowling family comes into the picture.

Maryann and her husband, Lee, are Clinton Township residents with three kids of their own: one 14-year-old son and two 11-year-old twins. Marie said it was difficult to leave her 14-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother back in Germany, but she said her three “new” siblings have filled that void quite well.

Marie said that one difference between Germany and the U.S. is size.

“Things are bigger here, like the supermarkets and streets,” Marie said. “People here are nice and ask about your country; they are interested in the things I like to do.

“I want to improve my English, which is very good for my future. It’s cool to see all the places. I knew everything was bigger, but it’s very big!”

She said she was initially nervous about her trip, but that anxiety faded away pretty quickly. The guitar and handball playing girl has found comfort in her new, temporary home.

Maryann said the online application to become a host family is extensive, involving descriptions of family members and their interests. The exchange student also receives an abundance of information that can guide him or her in the right direction and determine whether a host family would be a beneficial fit.

Once both sides converge and the host family is on board with a student, more information is released and communication ensues electronically — such as through Skype. Bowling said her family did not run into any glitches during the process, saying it was a smooth process that has developed into a comfortable and compatible atmosphere so far.

“I wanted this to be a good experience for our daughter because she always said she never had a sister to relate to,” Bowling said. “They like music and reading and want to do music together.

“(Marie’s) helping me cook German meals; we’re introducing her to our American grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. And when we come to a word roadblock, we Google Translate and work through it. There are a lot of laughs.”

Marie originally had an orientation in New York City, an experience which also included sightseeing. The Bowling family aims to give her more visual entertainment through various trips and experiences, such as taking her to college football games, baseball games, Mackinac Island, Cedar Point and maybe even to Chicago.

Marie, who enjoys mathematics, may consider it a future area of study beyond high school. But, for now, she is looking at the experience with an open mind and learning new things about a different country.