Home away from home
Torben Schafer and his girlfriend, Maria Essen, arrived in Worthington just in time to celebrate Independence Day on July 4. It was a timely arrival, since Schafer experienced his own sense of independence when he spent the 2005-2006 school year ...
Torben Schafer and his girlfriend, Maria Essen, arrived in Worthington just in time to celebrate Independence Day on July 4. It was a timely arrival, since Schafer experienced his own sense of independence when he spent the 2005-2006 school year in Worthington as an exchange student from Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany.
"I am pretty sure I have changed," due to the exchange student experience, Schafer reflected. "You have host families, but you are mostly on your own, so you become more mature, more independent. It definitely changed me."
Schafer and Essen are spending several weeks in Worthington, staying with one of his former host families, the Penaredondos.
"It's the same old Worthington," he said with a smile. "Nothing really has changed. It's almost like I traveled back in time. ... She (Essen) can meet the friends I've told her about, and they can get to know her in person."
Since he returned to Crailsheim, Schafer completed two more years of schooling at Crailsheim's Albert Schweitzer Gymnasium.
"At first, it was weird to go back to school there, because I graduated here, although not really. It was like I'd had a year off, although I still did a lot of things here," he explained. "It took me one or two weeks, then I was back in the groove."
Now that he has completed his required schooling, Schafer will fulfill his civil service obligation in Germany before heading off to university. In Germany, young males are required to serve for nine months, either in the military or a social service organization.
"I'm going to work in a secondhand store, where they get donations, maybe fix these things up, and then sell them to people who have had trouble in their lives," he detailed. "That's in Stuttgart, a bigger city, so I'll be seeing how life is there."
Essen also graduated from gymnasium and will attend college. Both she and Schafer are both considering studying economic engineering, a relatively new field that combines economics and technical skills.
But for a few weeks more, they are enjoying seeing the sights, renewing acquaintances and making new friends, too. Today, they are headed to the Twin Cities, where they plan to visit the Mall of America, among other venues. Because of the exchange rate that is favorable to foreign visitors, as well as the generally lower prices in the United States, shopping is on their to-do list. After they leave Worthington on July 26, they will spend a week in Chicago before heading home to Germany.
"It feels good that you have people over in America that you are staying in touch with," reflected Schafer about his connection to Worthington. "And I have high school memories -- I will never forget that. It was unforgettable, the things I did, the new experiences I had -- the best year of my life."