Imagine boarding a plane, flying for 11 hours and landing alone on what’s practically another planet. The language is different, the buildings look different and even the air seems to smell different. In fact, your family is different and you will be living with them on this strange and foreign planet for the next six months. That is exactly what junior Thomas Maurer did.
Thomas journeyed to Los Altos all the way from Wolfenbuettel, Germany over the summer on July 22. After studying English in school since third grade and spending a year in international school in his home country, Thomas was more than ready for the adventure.
“[Coming here] wasn’t really moving, just traveling,” Thomas said. “It was a bit strange because I’m living here with a host family… [it’s a] different family, different city. It’s actually quite nice [because] I knew them from before… They are family friends so I knew how they’d be. It’s sometimes strange with two more brothers [because] I’ve got a sister at home.”
Thomas not only lives in a different city, but an entirely foreign country. However, he has been able to recognize the benefit of experiencing another cultural perspective and even recognizes the similarities between the two countries. According to Thomas, the weather in California is drier and the people are nicer. However, the fast food, fashion and popular music of the U.S. and Germany are all quite the same.
“Most teenagers and young adults in Germany want to live like [people] do in the U.S.” Thomas said.
Although most of the culture is the same, there are some other small differences between the two countries. For example, most countries in Europe, including Germany, track time on a 24 hour clock.
“[In Germany] school starts at 7:40,” Thomas said. “The time it ends depends on the day, normally at 15:20… Actually, I think the 24 hour system is a bit easier because you don’t have to say a.m. or p.m. In Germany, I can live with both [time systems].”
Besides small differences like timekeeping, adjusting to Los Altos has been smooth sailing for Thomas. Thomas finds the weather here in California especially pleasant.
“It’s nearly never raining,” Thomas said. “It’s somehow strange when someone says, ‘It’s raining, hooray!’… I was glad when I got out of the rain in Munich; I’ve had to start school an hour late because of rain.”
Unlike the U.S., Germany has four options for secondary education: Gymnasium, Realschule, Hauptschule and Gesamtschule. They are all different based on how many years they consist of and the type of student that attends. Thomas goes to a Gymnasium.
“You can go to four types… [one of them] is actually called Gymnasium,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of like high school, but it’s eight or nine years, depending on the state. Then there are other schools, three types. There is something they call Gesamtschule, where everyone can go in… the other two types of schools are for students that don’t perform well.”
When he’s not busy with school, Thomas likes to stay active. He played soccer for many years, swims recreationally and recently picked up dance.
“I actually liked soccer, although I stopped playing it [in Germany] because it was too competitive,” Thomas said. “Maybe you could compare it with a high school football team. It’s not really nice, and if you do something wrong, the whole team is against you. Dance, I only had one hour per week, but [the studio always] had [more] girls, so they were glad when some boys with extra time just went there and helped out.”
For the time being, Thomas has taken a break from dance and swimming.
“I have quite a lot of homework, especially when I have to do it in two languages,” Thomas said.
Most teenagers can probably relate to having a lot of homework, even if it isn’t in two languages. And like most teenagers, Thomas is glad to have some time away from home and to be off on his own.
“I’m here for a half year and I’ll [be at] my old school for two and a half more years, so I don’t miss home really.” Thomas said. “Sometimes it’s good to have a little distance from your parents.”
Thomas hopes to make the most of his short time here in the U.S. and to make a place of himself in the LAHS community.
“I hope to keep up with my classes, although I won’t get any credit for them,” Thomas said. “I would like to finish this half-year with a good ending.”