Friday, April 3, 2015

Foreign Exchange Student Returns, with Family

Nadine Holtrup of Weimar, Germany, spent a year in Sequoyah County 18 years ago. She liked it so much, she came back this week for a visit. When she first came to Sallisaw, she was a high school junior. That was during the 1997-98 school year. When she came back last week she brought her husband, Peter, and her three sons, Lukas, 9, Linus, 5, and Noah, who will be 3 next week. Nadine liked her host family, headed by Margie Hayes of Sallisaw, and her high school year at Gans High School, so much she loves returning to visit. This current visit is her third return trip.

Holtrup explained her reason for becoming a foreign exchange student. "I had three friends who were exchange students. One went to Colorado, one went to Canada, and one went to France," she said. "Well, France is pretty close to Germany, and I wanted an English-speaking country. I thought America was better." Holtrup applied and was accepted through the EF (for Education First) Foundation and was placed in Sallisaw. She attended Gans High School even though she lived with the Hayes family in Sallisaw. Sallisaw High School already had two foreign exchange students at the time, which was the limit allowed. Holtrup fit in well at Gans and was so good at her studies that she graduated with the seniors in 1998. One of her teachers has asked her to come back this week and talk about her experiences as a German foreign student in the United States. 

Holtrup also became friends with the other exchange students in Sequoyah County at that time, and still considers them friends, although they have all moved on with their lives and new families. She said one of her fondest memories of her exchange student years is "Vanilla milk shakes, but we don't have Sonic in Germany, and they make the best milk shakes!" Holtrup said her first excursion when she came back last week was to take her family to Sonic.

"But we couldn't find it!" she exclaimed. No one had told her that a new Sonic Drive In was on Ruth Street. But no fear. "Oh I found it," Holtrup said. 

Holtrup is also finding other experiences for her family. They have visited local lakes and parks at Lake Tenkiller, Kerr Lake and Brushy Lake, and she plans a trip to the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Gentry, Arkansas and to Sequoyah's Cabin. The family enjoys hiking, she said, and hiking allows her sons some freedom. Her sons, Nadine said, are having a good time with her original host mother, Margie Hayes, even though Margie doesn't speak German and the boys don't speak English. Riding a four-wheeler has been an exciting experience for her sons too, Nadine said. "They loved it!" she said. 

Nadine said her husband, Peter, is amazed at the wide open spaces to be found in the U.S. and Sequoyah County. Peter doesn't speak English, but she keeps him informed. Nadine is an excellent English speaker and admits that, now back in the U.S., she sometimes has trouble finding the German word she needs in a conversation. She said she keeps her English-speaking skills up to date by speaking only English with an American friend back at home in Weimar, in central Germany, a town about the size of Fort Smith.

Nadine said she has completed her university education as an elementary teacher, and hopes to soon complete her student, or practical, teaching so that she may begin teaching next year, when her youngest son enters pre-school in Germany.

Nadine said she has never thought about letting her own children become foreign exchange students. "It is quite expensive," she said. But she will always cherish her own memories. "It was good for me," she concluded. "Good for my schooling."

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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