Anastasia Ruimy Staff Writer
In a recurring online exclusive, Standard staff sit down with High School teachers to hear about their favorite high school memories.
In this edition, Staff Writer Anastasia Ruimy sits down with HS Learning Specialist Heather Statz. Statz recalls a 3-week exchange program to Austria she participated in, and the drastic difference in social cues between the Austrian culture compared to her American culture.
Anastasia Ruimy: What is your favorite memory from high school?
HS Learning Specialist Heather Statz: It was twenty-five years ago when I was in high school when I was 17 in February. My school did a mini exchange program and there was 10 of us that went from Kansas City, Missouri for three weeks to Austria, and we got credit for it as we were going and learning at a school there. And they were all fluent in English but we were not fluent in German, well you know an American education in Kansas City; I would love to say we were but we were not.
We were with host families and my host family was lovely. They were very kind but right away they were very direct; they were so direct and upfront and they said to me, ‘You are very nice but you need to lose weight’. So at meal times when they were having bread and cheese they would say, ‘None for you!’ So they were so direct, but not in a mean way. They were lovely, they took such good care of me and wanted the best for me and the best for me was you should not have any bread. They would say, ‘No bread for you, no cheese for you, you eat this.’ So that kind of cracked me up as they were so loving, but just very direct. Natasia’s, another student on the trip, host family did the same thing to her so they were like ‘No, no, you do not eat this.’
“We had to communicate with strangers every three seconds and try to interpret everything that was in German. We learned a really valuable lesson that facial expressions, smiles and pointing goes a long way.” – HS Learning Specialist Heather Statz
I remember one day we were all on a trip, us and the students and some of the parent hosts, and it was a walking tour but then we were taking the train to the first starting point but they told Natasia and I, ‘You need to walk more so we will see you there’ and they got on a train and left us at the train station. It was like three miles or a couple of miles but, truthfully, because we had been living in Kansas City — where we have great public transport and everyone has their own car — we didn’t walk much. They had a valid point, but mind you — we didn’t speak German so we were trying to navigate [through the streets]. It was actually a wonderful life experience because there was Natasia and I and we were like, ‘What do we do?’ We had to communicate with strangers every three seconds and try to interpret everything that was in German. We learned a really valuable lesson that facial expressions, smiles and pointing goes a long way. When we found our way, we felt really successful that we had done it, so, ultimately, there were all these others circumstances like this [where they were] like, ‘you two — you will be walking!’
Our minds were being expanded in huge ways it was such a wonderful opportunity we were learning such wonderful life lessons but we were still teenagers from Kansas City and we were missing the things we felt were normal. One day our group alone was going to some art museums…, so just the ten of us with our two chaperones and we came out of the train station and we saw a McDonald’s, you would have thought that we saw someone so famous, but we just thought we saw something phenomenal. We screamed we got so excited. We were like, ‘McDonald’s!’ And we begged our chaperones to please eat at McDonald’s so they let us. It was the best big mac [burger] of my life. I don’t even eat McDonald’s all the time, but we were so excited. That day was such a highlight of the trip. We were so happy that we were late [for] our appointment at the museum as we were eating McDonald’s and were in heaven. When we finished we were happy for the rest of the time. So ridiculously McDonald’s made us thrilled, and our Austrian friends and families were probably right that we needed to be a bit fitter.
Photos via Heather Statz