The U.S. Department of State and German Bundestag are pleased to announce Leni Beulen as the March Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) German Participant of the Month! Leni, a CBYX High School participant, is placed by YFU at New Prague High School and hosted by the Burns family in Lonsdale, Minnesota.
Having jumped right into high school life, Leni joined the soccer team and German club, and she plans on trying lacrosse this spring. In German club, Leni answers questions and engages in fun activities, like making German bread. “Going to school in the United States is a whole different level of getting to know the culture.” The Sno-ball, which was held in the school gym, met her expectations for a U.S. high school dance. “Ok, so the movies sometimes are correct,” she noted. The experience made her immediately excited for prom, for which she has already bought a dress!
Leni was also impressed with how the American school system considers different students’ needs – especially for students with learning disabilities. One cultural element she hopes to bring home with her is doling out compliments. “People here are always complimenting each other. That’s such a beauitful habit. I think we should all do that.” She’s set a personal goal for 2022 to compliment someone at least once a day.
Leni and her host mom love to cook, and they spend a lot of time in the kitchen sharing recipies and cooking techniques. Her host family even gifted her a homemade cookbook to bring back to Germany! Leni has taken two food classes in school and even helped teach a lesson in international foods on German dishes. Leni’s cheesy potatoes were a special hit in her house, and even made it to the Christmas dinner table.
Leni’s host family describes her as being a great addition to their family. They enjoy having dinner conversations about similarities and differences between the United States and Germany, although it might end in a spirited discussion about whether or not you egg-wash pretzels!
Leni has completed 65 hours of community service so far, and frequently joins her host family in volunteering for Feed My Starving Children, one of their favorite family activities. Leni said that packing food and vitamin bags to be shipped to overseas communities in need helped bring the family together. Leni and her host family have had the opportunity to enjoy the Minnesota State Fair, a Renaissance festival, a visit to Minnesota’s largest candy store, and trips to Lake Superior and a family cabin up north. She even attended her first ever wedding in the United States. Leni said the state fair reminded her of what she expects German Oktoberfest to be like – but with more fried foods on sticks!
Reflecting on her experience so far, Leni wanted to encourage others who are considering doing an exchange program. “Even if you struggle during your exchange, you should keep going because it’s worth it. I struggled in the beginning because I was homesick, but now I’m happy. If you keep going, you’ll experience all the great things.”