German Exchange Student Comes ‘Home’
Nora Nevermann returns to visit host family and Key School classmates.
Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can't Go Home Again. Often, you can't. That mandate doesn't apply to Nora Nevermann, a recent high-school graduate from Germany. Last week, she came home again — to Annapolis.
As a junior in 2007, Nevermann left Berlin to spend a year at the Key School in Hillsmere. As the parents of two teenage daughters, we decided that having a foreign exchange student would give our children the opportunity to live closely with someone from a different culture and widen their global perspective. When the school posted a notice seeking a family to host Nevermann, we jumped at the opportunity even though we had never met her and knew only a little about her.
We're so glad we did.
Nevermann is a remarkable young woman who excelled at Key School while taking difficult courses in a non-native language. She also took piano lessons through the Peabody Institute at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. More importantly, she became a close member of the family within weeks of her arrival. Our two daughters treated her like a sister and she adopted them as siblings — a new experience for her since she's an only child.
Last fall, Nevermann started plotting a return trip to Annapolis. After graduation, she and a long-time German friend planned to travel to different parts of the United States. In August, the two of them arrived in California. She was ecstatic to be back in the states.
Last week, before heading back to Germany, Nevermann returned to her "second home" for the first time since her departure in June 2008. While here, she answered some questions about her year in Annapolis and how it felt to be back.
Q: Why did you decide to become an exchange student?
A: I knew other older students at my school who had done it and were very happy at Key, so I went to speak to Mr. Eith [the teacher who once taught at Key and now teaches at Nevermann's school in Berlin].
Q: What did you like about Key School?
A: Key makes it fun to study because there are so many projects and you aren't just studying from books. I loved my Latin class; it was just my Latin teacher and two students. The teachers are really willing to help you if they see that you're trying hard.
I also really liked our Assateague Island field trip in which we were studying the ecosystem. The Atlantic Ocean was beautiful, and there were no buildings on the island. The wild ponies did "attack" our tents though, constantly trying to open up the plastic bags of foods with their heads. You would wake up and there would be a pony in front of your tent.
Q: What other good memories do you have of Annapolis and the United States?
A: When we went to the Orioles game in Baltimore, I loved the atmosphere in the stadium. Also, I really liked going to Trader Joe's. One of the things I like most about Annapolis is the Chesapeake Bay and the downtown area.
With this visit to the United States, I realized that I really like that Americans are so open. You can just meet and start talking to people so easily. Many people that I met were so open and interesting. I like everything about the United States. I know I will live here sometime in the future.
Q: Is there anything that you didn't like about Annapolis?
A: The only thing I didn't like was that if you wanted to go anywhere, you needed a car or to ask for a ride. My visit now has deepened my impression that Annapolis is a typical American town in many ways, with a downtown area but an emphasis on cars because many of the shops are not near the homes.
Q: What did you think of the piano lessons with Peabody?
A: I had the best teacher for piano that I've ever had [Nevermann's teacher was Frances Cheng-Koors]. She was very small and had no power, but when she sat down at the piano, she was incredible.
Q: What did you tell people about your year abroad when you went back to Berlin?
A: I told them it was great! I also told them that I was very lucky because my host family was great and that's what matters most. It was cool to have host sisters about my age. And I told them that the town was small, but fun because there are a lot of young people.
Q: What advice would you give students who are thinking of doing a foreign exchange?
A: You don't really need any advice. You just need to do it. I would say that people who are really set in their ways shouldn't do it.