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Paynesville Press - September 24, 2003

German student returns to PAHS

By Michael Jacobson

A student exchange between high schools in Paynesville and Ulm, Germany, continues this year at Paynesville Area High School with German student Mara Heide attending PAHS for the 2003-04 school year.

Mara first visited Paynesville a year ago when 20 students from her gymnasium the top type of high school in the German system came for a two-week exchange. She stayed with the Jim and DuDonne Andrie family, since their daughter Melissa was going to Germany in the spring.

"When the group came over last fall, she stayed with us for two weeks, and then when I went over last spring (to Germany), I stayed with her and her family," said Melissa, now a senior.

"We just really enjoyed our two weeks last year," added DuDonne. "It's like we formed an instant bond. She just fit into our family so nicely."

Prior to meeting Mara, the Andries had never given the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student much thought, according to Jim and DuDonne. But Melissa and Mara stayed in touch, mainly by weekly e-mail, throughout the year.

When the Andries learned that Mara had been accepted to a study abroad program in January, they asked, jokingly at first, how they could get on the list of host families. Mara checked into it, and the Andries agreed to sign up as her host family. They learned that they had been approved as her host family last spring.

Andrie family host german student Mara has visited the United States six times prior to coming for this school year. With her family, she has made four trips to Florida and one trip to California and the Grand Canyon. With her school, she came to Paynesville last year.

She decided that she wanted to study abroad in America years ago, during her first trips to this country, she said. "I was just amazed by the country and the people. I wanted to learn the culture," she said. "It was my dream since eighth grade to come for a whole year and last year just justified my decision."

Mara Heide (center) has returned to Paynesville for a year as a foreign exchange student from Germany. She is staying with the Andrie family on Rice Lake: (clockwise from lower left) Melissa Andrie, Marke Andrie, Jim Andrie, and DuDonne Andrie. Not Pictured is Jessica Andrie.

Mara earned a scholarship from the American and German governments for her study abroad program. She is part of a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, which has 380 American students studying in Germany this year and 400 German students studying in America.

She arrived in Paynesville in August, a week before school started at PAHS. Before school, the Andries took Mara waterskiing for the first time and they brought her to the Minnesota State Fai r.

They plan to do lots of Minnesota things in the next year, including camping on the North Shore. And they have promised that she will get to walk on frozen Rice Lake before going home. "We're going to teach her to walk on water," said Jim. "We're going to take her ice fishing."

Mara, 16, is taking senior classes at PAHS. She plans to try out for the danceline this winter.

When she returns to Ulm a city with a population of 115,000 in southern Germany she will be in grade 12, with two years left in gymnasium.

germany map Her goals for her year abroad are "having fun, meeting lots of people, having good experiences, and getting to know another culture."

Melissa likes practicing German with Mara, particularly since Melissa's younger brother, Mark, a sophomore at PAHS, won't speak it at home with her, Melissa said.

Mara has noted several differences between Germany and America so far. For instance, she said Minnesotans go to church with much more frequency than most Germans. That school in Germany lasts until only 1 p.m. each day with all the extracurricular activities being done in private clubs. And that high schools here are more strict than at home and there's more homework.

One diffference that the Andries have noticed is that Mara has learned British English, which has led to a few humorous moments so far (at least until she masters an American accent and American slang).

Mara asked DuDonne to "come and fetch" them, and the family found the use of "fetch" to be very un-American and funny.

"That's what they told me to say," protested Mara, as the story is retold in the family's living room. "That's what was in my English book."

Mara's hobbies are running, rowing, reading, teasing her brother, and scuba diving, especially at her family's vacation home in Mallorca, Spain. (Mara's mother is a medical doctor, and her father runs a bed and breakfast. She has one younger brother, seven-year-old Yannik.)

As part of the government program, after graduation at PAHS in June, Mara will go to Washington, D.C., for a couple days of sightseeing. The tentative plan after that is for her to come back to Paynesville and Rice Lake and for her family to come visit from Germany. Then Melissa may go back with their family to spend a month next summer.

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