German Participant of the Month – October 2023

We are pleased to announce Lilly Altenkirch as the October 2023 CBYX German Participant of the Month! Lilly, a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) high school participant placed by ASSE, is hosted by the Leisy family in Saint Lawrence, South Dakota.

In her own words, her exchange year got off to a bit of a challenging start, “Sitting on my last plane to Sioux Falls, starting to freak out and ask myself why I would volunteer to leave everything I know behind – for almost a year! I wondered why I would do that to myself, why I couldn’t be a normal person, worrying about graduation, college, and boys. Even my suitcase wanted to stay in Germany.” But after many deep breaths, Lilly has taken it all in stride and made Saint Lawrence, South Dakota her home. In fact, after less than a month of being in South Dakota she noted that, “the other day, when I said I forgot my jacket at home, someone asked me if it was still in Germany. It wasn’t. It was at the other home I am glad to call mine.”

Ever since she was little, Lilly has had her sights set on helping people by becoming a doctor. Five years ago, Lilly joined the volunteer youth firefighting team in her hometown so she could get experience as a first responder. As part of that, Lilly has taken part in fire extinguishing competitions and learned various aspects of responding to a crisis. Lilly was delighted when her host family took her to visit some of the local fire stations. She was even able to shadow the Emergency Manager of Hand County for a day. This led to the opportunity for Lilly to volunteer in an American fire station.

Before her exchange year, Lilly said she had heard about team spirit but never really experienced this in Germany as she doesn’t play sports. Some of her goals for her exchange year included to try new things and get a sense of sport team spirit. Therefore, Lilly decided to talk to the school about joining their volleyball team. Despite her not having any volleyball experience, the coach agreed that she could join the team. While Lilly has a lot to learn, she is certainly improving her volleyball skills as a member of the Miller Rustlers Team. She has also gotten a clear taste of team spirit as during the first game she was put on the court she says, “My teammates were so sweet. They cheered me on as if we just won the game; they were so happy for me!”

To honor her grandparents in Germany, Lilly is volunteering at the Good Samaritan Society, a local retirement community. She has been quick to create bonds with the residents by spending time chatting with them while painting their nails and helping with bingo. They often tell Lilly stories of their lives, which gives her insight into their personal experiences and the culture of the United States. She also joined her volleyball team to support the Beau Keeter Giveback Day where young people volunteer to help community members. Lilly was so inspired by the give back day that she has plans to reach out to the mayor of her hometown in Germany to establish something similar.

Lilly believes that everyone should consider participating in an exchange. “Even though there are ups and downs, the hard times are a big part of the learning experience. It really helps you grow and gives you new experiences.”

Congratulations, Lilly!