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Newsmakers: Exchange Student Adjusts to Life in America

A new foreign exchange student is currently gracing the halls of PHS. Her name is Johanna Wallbaum, but everyone calls her “JoJo.”

With the multitude of places that one can go in America as an exchange student, Wallbaum landed in Paoli because her brother Chris was an exchange student here in 2007. He lived with the Tolivers, but JoJo is living with junior Brandie Hankins.

When it comes to school, Wallbaum says that policies here are much stricter. At her school in Germany, students were allowed to use cuss words and did not have a dress code. She had to buy new clothes to follow our school’s dress code. Her school in Germany also had an open campus.

“It feels like I’m in a prison sometimes because the doors are closed,” said Wallbaum. While this may be a change, Wallbaum is still enjoying school.

One thing Wallbaum enjoys about school is basketball. She is very excited to be on the team. But for other activities, Wallbaum said it would be too much to balance so much change with a ton of extracurricular activities.

“I need time for friends,” she said.

As for her friends in Germany, it has been hard for Wallbaum to keep in contact. She says that she misses them, but she is in America and needs to experience life outside of Germany.

While it was not hard for her to leave Germany, she does miss living in a big city.

“I don’t like how everyone knows everything about everyone here,” said Wallbaum.

Another big change for Wallbaum is always speaking in English. While she speaks English very well, she still struggles with it occasionally.

“I think in German and someone speaks to me in English, so it [her response] comes out in German,” she said. Wallbaum also has some problems with censoring her words, as in Germany cussing is not considered offensive.

Even though there has been a lot of change and some culture shock, Wallbaum is enjoying her time in America. She enjoys school, basketball and making new friends. She would like to stay in America for college, but says that being an exchange student is very expensive. She most likely will go to university in Germany, where the cost would not be so high.

“I would love to live in America,” said Wallbaum.

Foreign exchange student Johanna Wallbaum works on an assignment for English.

Story by Lindsay Begley
Photo by Keisha Levi

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