By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Anastasia Vershinina has enjoyed her time as a foreign exchange student in Iron Mountain where she has had a chance to meet new people and have many new experiences.
Anastasia Vershinina is an exchange student from Gera in the state of Thuringia in Germany and has been staying with the Hart family this year in Iron Mountain as an exchange student with the Youth For Understanding program. Her family in Iron Mountain includes in front from left, Brennen and Emily Hart. In back from left are her host mother, Wanda, their dog Spree, Anastasia and her host father, Jim Hart.
She comes from the city of Gera in the state of Thuringia in Germany, an area similar in size to Green Bay, Wis., with about 95,000 people.
"The city I live in is very big compared to Iron Mountain," Anastasia said. "We have three malls, several kindergartens, elementary schools and high school, a big public transport network, a movie theater and swimming hall."
She added that for Americans, her city would seem big and developed. But for Germans, it's one of the smaller cities and many people have never heard of it before.
As a student at Iron Mountain High School this year, Anastasia is an active member of the junior class. She played volleyball in the fall on the varsity team and over the winter time, she participated in the IMHS Drama Club as a student director. In the spring, she plans to play soccer on the high school team.
In addition, she is involved with the IMHS Key Club and volunteered during the annual Ski Jumping tournament at Pine Mountain.
Anastasia has been a member of the Hart family while living in Iron Mountain this year. The family includes her host parents, Jim and Wanda Hart; a brother, Brennen who is a freshman at IMHS; and a sister, Emily, a sixth grader at East Elementary School.
Her parents in Germany, Thomas and Oxana, both work in a company which sells land to farmers or to build roads on the state level.
She also has a brother, Daniel, who is 10 years older than her. He has finished college as a teacher and majored in geography. Her brother and his wife, Karen have a 10 month-old son, Emil.
The way the classes for high school are set up in the United States differs greatly from school in Germany. She noted that students here have to pick eight classes each year and then have these classes for the entire year.
German high school starts in the fifth grade and there is no choice in what classes they take - all classes are mandatory to a certain level of education.
"We have a different schedule every day and usually no lockers although my school does have some. Our junior and senior year is considered preparation for college and we have the opportunity to choose which classes we take, but it's still very strict," Anastasia said.
"Next year I will take 13 classes - those will be six AP classes and six normal classes. The last class is specifically made for a research paper," she said.
"German students in my state have to get together in different groups of 3-4 and have to pick a topic. Then we have 1 1/2 years to do research, write a paper with 60-70 pages and prepare a presentation. In conclusion, German schools are way harder and stricter than American schools," she said.
When she returns home after this year as an exchange student, Anastasia will still have two more years of high school.
"I am trying to go into med school, but if that fails my plan B will be something with languages. I speak Russian, German and English fluently," she said.
In the area of meals, there aren't great differences between German/European and American, she said noting that it is hard to pick a favorite food here. But one thing is drastically different is the bread - which she listed as one of the things she misses most from home.
"And I'm not even kidding about the bread. German bread is from heaven compared to American bread," Anastasia said.
In addition to the bread, she said she also misses her family, friends and the convenience of public transportation.
Anastasia is a part of the Youth For Understanding program, which matches students with host families in the United States. She said that she had an easy adjustment coming to the United States from Germany.
"I only needed two weeks to do that. But it wasn't all about me. I, of course, had good English skills which helped, but I had help from the teachers, students and my host family," Anastasia said.
She added that she been to some of the larger cities closer to Iron Mountain including Chicago, Appleton and Green Bay in Wisconsin, and Marquette. Anastasia has plans to go on a trip to New York and Washington D.C. during spring break and said she's very excited to do that.
"What I have enjoyed the most is meeting new people and having new experiences as an exchange student. Everybody is so nice and friendly. Americans are way more open than German people and this makes it a great year," she said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.