Austrian Students Study in America for Semester

When students here think of America, they think of home—a place of comfort and familiarity. However, for foreign exchange students senior Fabian Ganglbauer and his brother sophomore Gregor Ganglbauer, America is a new land filled with strange cultures, different people and unfamiliar surroundings.

The Austrian brothers chose to undergo a semester-long residency in America with their mother in order to acquire the irreplaceable experienced of living immersed in the culture, language and lifestyle of a foreign country.

“[Our mother] went to France when she was 17, and she says that she wants to give us the same chance to learn a second language,” Fabian said.

The two will be residing in America for first semester, after which they both plan to return to the five-year high school program that exists in Austria.

Here in America the brothers can choose from a variety of school subjects, knowing that what they enroll in is not likely to affect their lives in the long run.

Back in Austria, however, the two already have career outlines set for themselves and attend a specialized school that teaches them from a technical-based curriculum and trains them for their future jobs.

According to Fabian, Austrian high school students lead lives very different from American high school students. Austria society puts a much stronger emphasis on giving teenagers early responsibility.

However, the responsibility that is expected of teenagers living in Austria also has another side to it—Austrian teenagers are given much more independence and freedom to do as they please.

“[Austria] is totally different,” Fabian said. “In Austria, you can go out as long as you want and go to any bar you want. And you are allowed to drink and smoke when you’re 16.”

Another difference the boys have noticed is the strikingly outgoing and forward personality that many Americans, though females in particular, possess.

“[In America] all the girls…don’t know you but they’re like ‘I love you’ and… start screaming,” Gregor said.

Though cultural differences may remain, many students and teachers, including social studies teacher Seth Donnelly, have attested to the fact that the boys have assimilated well and seem to be having a positive experience so far.

“[Fabian] seems to be a very comfortable and life-loving person,” Donnelly said. “In the class, he seems very at home. He’s got a good sense of humor, and he’s open to participating.”

Though the brothers do admit they were not entirely on board with the idea when their mother first proposed it to them, the exposure to valuable cultures has made this journey far worth their while.

“I’m thankful I can, and I like it here,” Gregor said.