German foreign exchange student Mara Fuchs didn’t know her destination was Monticello, MN until she arrived.
She wanted to come from overseas for a long time. She did three years studying abroad with her family when she was nine years old. After that she always wanted to go to another English speaking country. She decided on the United States because she was always seeing movies about it and wanted to see what the high school spirit was all about.
Last December she had her first meetings and filled out all her paperwork in the spring and after that it was just a waiting game until Fuchs was able to land a host family.
During a P.E. lesson in Germany she finally got the call, “I had been waiting for like two three months. During my P.E. lesson in Germany I got an email saying we have your host family and I was like, freaking out. I was screaming at everybody,” Fuchs said.
She didn’t know where she was going because she just wanted to make sure she had a good host family over picking any state in the United States to stay.
Fuchs is a big fan of winter, so she was happy to arrive in the land of 10,000 lakes, known for its winters and snowy weather.
She video chatted with her host family a few times before meeting them and then she flew out on Sept. 2 from Frankfort to Chicago and from Chicago to Minneapolis.
The foreign exchange student had a little trouble transitioning to the US at first, as many do, but has settled in nicely. She was nervous at first and felt overwhelmed for the first couple of days.
“I went to Costco and was like oh wow that store is so big, okay,” Fuchs mentioned.
After that however, the excitement started to settle in and felt better getting into a daily structure.
“It’s really nice,” said Fuchs. “When you start to get friends and they start to invite you to do things it gets much easier,” she added.
One thing that helps is the lack of a language barrier as Fuchs speaks English. Fuchs cited Germany’s strong language program in school as to why she is able to speak English effectively.
She also likes the difference in the schools between Germany and Minnesota and thinks school here is pretty cool as she feels like a part of the Monticello community.
“In Germany it’s just school. There’s just the learning part and you do all your activities outside of school in clubs. Here it’s all very focused in the school. I like that because you get more of like a community feeling. You kind of identify with the school you’re from so that’s really cool. And of course you have different sports that we don’t have, like football. We don’t have big football matches where everybody is coming,” Fuchs explained.
When going to school overseas it’s mentioned that it’s going to be like a rollercoaster throughout the stay. You arrive and there’s a feeling of excitement and then you realize you’re gone from home for a while. Then you feel up again as you enjoy the time spent and then down again as you get ready to leave because you don’t want to.
Fuchs says she’s still happy to be here, but is starting to feel that first downward slope of being a little homesick.
Her host family, Mark and Kelli LaVoie, have been great in helping her not feel lonely. Living with the LaVoie family has been an enjoyable experience as Fuchs continues to get to know the community. She has also made some friends who recently took her on a trip to Top Golf.
In Germany, Fuchs played field hockey and tennis and plays tennis for the Magic here in Monticello. She’s very happy to play tennis here in Monticello. She was at her very first tennis practice her first day at the school after just arriving the night before.
Tennis is a little different here in Minnesota than it is in Germany. In Germany, there’s only four players in the kids sections and six for adults and you play both singles and doubles. Here there are four singles players and then six doubles players so you don’t play both like you do in Deutschland.
In Germany they only play about four or five matches during their season and they also play on a different court. Monticello has a hard court whereas in Germany they play on the red ash courts. The courts over there you can slide a lot more on and you can’t do that as much on the hard courts so you have to run a little bit more, something Fuchs had to change up about her game a little bit upon arriving.
Otherwise technique-wise everything else is pretty much the same. The notable difference Fuchs explained was that here the tennis players learn a jump serve, which is not something she was being taught in Germany.
Despite being nervous about the potential difference in competition level, she settled in quite nicely playing mostly second doubles with her teammate Katelyn Lindberg and is happy to play at the varsity level.
Even though she played both singles and doubles in Germany, she says she is a team player so she enjoys playing doubles with Lindberg.
That pairing played a key role in Monticello’s first round section playoff matchup against Robbinsdale Armstrong. With the teams tied 3-3 it was Fuchs and Lindberg who clinched a victory winning their match 7-5 , 4-6 , 6-2 that allowed them to advance to the next round against Orono.
Tennis head coach Katy Horgen really enjoys having Fuchs around too, “Mara is a wonderful kid,” Horgen said. “She is a motivated hard working tennis player. It has been fun to watch her become more aggressive at the net this season,” added Horgen.
She finished off by saying, “Mara has added a competitive edge to our team as she outworks her opponents. It has been fun to get to know her and watch her grow as a tennis player.”
She misses the German food, especially the bread and more of the traditional German dishes, but is also excited about the upcoming holidays. They don’t have Thanksgiving and they celebrate Christmas a day earlier. Halloween also isn’t nearly as prominent in Germany as it is in the United States.
Having played field hockey in Germany, Fuchs is thinking about trying out lacrosse in the spring because of their similarities, even if it’s junior varsity, just so she can live through that experience.
“I’d like to play lacrosse in the spring because I think it’s kind of similar from like tactics and stuff like that to field hockey and just because that’s not really big in Germany either, just for the experience,” Fuchs expressed.
She enjoys living in Monticello and looks forward to the rest of the time spent in town before she heads back to Germany in a few months.