Exchanging More Than Just Culture

Most people hope to do a semester abroad in their junior year of college. Selina Gegenfurtner, on the other hand, had the opportunity to study abroad her junior year of high school.

A sixteen year old from Munich, Germany, Gegenfurtner is staying over 5,000 miles away from her home with junior Alanna Bodenhausen and her family for a study abroad year.

“I did not pick Florida. I picked a country, the United States, and a host family picked me,” said Gegenfurtner. In her case, the Bodenhausen family picked her. The Bodenhausen family found Selina through a program called Education First, a popular exchange program in the US that connects prospective study abroad students with host families.

The host families work with a coordinator who helps the families find a student they would work well with.

Selina found Gulf Breeze to be a lot different than school in Germany. School there is from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon.

“We don’t really have lunch. We have two longer breaks that are fifteen to twenty minutes long and we eat in one of them,” said Gegenfurtner.

The school systems are also very different in Germany. “There are three different high schools: one is for people who want to graduate at eighteen, one for those who want to graduate at sixteen, and one for those who want to graduate at fifteen.”

Since Selina went to a school that graduates at sixteen, she is technically done with high school, even though she has never used algebra before.

She is taking US History, AP Language and Composition, Spanish One, PE/HOPE, Dance Choreography, and Algebra Two.

Selena has found some the differences in our cultures to be interesting. “In Germany you drink at sixteen and drive at eighteen, but can drive a motorcycle at fifteen,” said Gegenfurtner.

When she wasn’t in school she followed German soccer and watched the European Cup over the summer.

Selena enjoyed her first time on a real beach here.

She listens to pop music, and says that most of Germany listens primarily to American music as well. She loves dogs, and her favorite American food is macaroni and cheese.

“All of the people here are so nice… I don’t have a favorite teacher yet, I have not been here for very long yet. We will have to see when I have been here longer.” she added.

Alanna says of her stay so far, “It’s been great having her. She’s like the sister I never had.”

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