By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Before arriving on American shores as a Rotary Club exchange student, Pepita Schmidt-Rave had studied English for the better part of seven years in Landau, Germany. It still didn’t quite prepare her.
“The first day I was here everything was really confusing, I had everyone asking me questions in English, but we had spent the most of the time writing it in school. Hearing it spoken was something else,” Schmidt-Rave said.
Schmidt-Rave is spending the academic year in Keizer as part of Rotary’s annual Youth Exchange program. She’s one of about 40 in the northwest Oregon and southwest Washington region.
She’s met many of them, and if you see her around town in her Rotary blazer, the pins on it are ones she’s exchanged with fellow travelers.
Schmidt-Rave was inspired to take part in an exchange program after her sister spent six months in New Zealand. Then her family sponsored an exchange student of their own and it sealed the deal.
“It was getting to take her all the different places that we knew in Germany that got me interested in doing it myself,” Schmidt-Rave said.
Since her arrival, Schmidt-Rave has visited the Oregon Coast for wakeboarding, Portland a few times and even gotten to attend a Blazer game, but she’s been most excited to try the things she doesn’t have access to in Landau, like cheerleading.
“Our sports activities all take place in clubs away from school and we don’t have cheerleading at all. Being able to be part of that has been fun,” she said.
Among the other differences she’s enjoyed is access to a wide variety of Mexican food.
“We only have one Mexican restaurant in my little hometown, but everything here is bigger, the plates, the cups, everything,” she said.
In the German school system, Schmidt-Rave was nearly finished with school, but now she’s planning to attend for another two years, which will create the opportunity to attend college. She hopes to go into fashion or brand management.
Landau’s climate is nearly identical to that of Keizer’s and the two areas have a lot in common, which left Schmidt-Rave most concerned about making friends in a new school rather than the rain.
“It thought it would be really weird changing classes every couple of hours and that it would be hard to make new friends, but the people are really open to it,” she said.
When she returns home in July, Schmidt-Rave will again face a barrage of questioning, but she already knows what answers they’ll be seeking and the language probably won’t be as intimidating.
“Before I left they all wanted to know if the things they see in movies were real, like the cheerleading and the size of the kitchens. They seem even bigger in the movies, but it’s all kind of true,” she said.