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Willkommen! Crailsheim exchange student embracing experience

WORTHINGTON -- Lilo Herzig, the 2017-2018 Crailsheim exchange student to Worthington, went from being an only child living with her mother to sharing a home with a family of seven when she arrived here in late July.

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Lilo Herzig, the 2017-2018 Crailsheim exchange student to Worthington, is enjoying her time in southwest Minnesota. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Lilo Herzig, the 2017-2018 Crailsheim exchange student to Worthington, went from being an only child living with her mother to sharing a home with a family of seven when she arrived here in late July.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but Herzig said she always wanted to live in a big family.

“Now it’s fun,” she said with a grin.

Herzig is staying with Scott and Karen Burns, parents of five boys, including Dominic, the 2016-2017 Worthington exchange student to Crailsheim.

What has she learned about the American way of life by staying with her hosts?

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For starters, anytime they leave the house, she yells “shotgun” for the opportunity to get the front passenger seat.

Another - a deviation from her German upbringing - is to fill up her dinner plate the first time around.

“My German manners are to take a bit of food and then more food later,” she said. Those manners prevented her from getting a second helping of Karen’s great cooking one night, when Dominic swooped in and cleared out a dish she claims had more than enough food for both of them.

While she misses her grandmother’s cooking, Herzig has found some new food favorites in America thus far. Topping the list is a grilled cheese sandwich. However, when she’s in the mood for a German dish, she just scrolls through her smartphone and the collection of her grandma’s recipes and takes over in the kitchen. Already, she’s made kaesspaetzle, a cheesy spaetzle, twice for her host family.

Herzig was among six girls who vied for the chance to represent Crailsheim as the 2017-2018 exchange student to Worthington. She applied for the opportunity last December upon some coaxing from her friends and teachers.

“I wasn’t thinking that I could actually make it,” she said. “I think that might be the reason I’m here now. I didn’t see it as a competition - just as a new experience.

“Now I’m here and I’m really happy,” she added.

This is Herzig’s first visit to the United States, and though she’s only been here two months, her English-speaking skills are excellent. She credits a two-week visit to England over her 14th birthday for her ability to speak the language.

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Herzig arrived in Worthington on July 28 with members of the Amazing Worthington City Band and others, who were returning from a 10-day visit to Crailsheim to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the sister city partnership.

During the bus ride from the Twin Cities, Herzig said her first impression of Minnesota was that it was “really, really flat.”

“I thought it actually looks like it does in the movies,” she said, referring to a flick showing teens driving down a long stretch of highway with the music cranked up.

Because of the large local contingent that traveled to Crailsheim in July, Herzig was able to meet many of the young city band members she now goes to school with at Worthington High.

“I met most of Dominic’s friends in Germany so I knew a lot of them,” she said. “Dominic is a good big brother - he takes me basically everywhere.”

Herzig, at 15, is the same age as most freshmen, but is enrolled in a junior-level homeroom and will graduate with the senior class in the spring. She calls herself a jenior.

The biggest adjustment to being a student at WHS is not being with the same small group of students all day.

“In Germany, you’re in the same room all day, and with the same 30 people,” she said. “I’ve been with the same 30 people almost my whole life.”

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She also struggles with using tables and devices in the classroom. In her school in Crailsheim, there are no iPads or other computerized devices - students take notes with paper and pen.

Herzig joined the school choir, serves on the student council, hopes to get involved in the AOK Club, and is playing tennis on the Trojan squad this fall.

“I’ve never played tennis before. The team is fun and the coaches are fun,” Herzig said, noting that her grandparents on both sides are tennis players. “Right now, my grandmother is the proudest grandma ever because I’m in the U.S. and I play tennis.”

Like playing tennis for the first time, Herzig said she’s excited to experience new things during her year-long stay in Worthington.

“I’m trying to see as much as I can - to get as much experience as possible,” she said. “This will be my only year as an exchange student, so I want to get as much out of it as I can.”

Herzig will return to Crailsheim next July, and will be considered a 10th-grader when she goes back to school there next fall.

“This year doesn’t count for me (education-wise),” she said. Instead, it’s her opportunity to figure out what she wants to do with her future. Her options include continuing her schooling or pursuing an apprenticeship. At this time, she’s eying a career that can combine her love of art (she enjoys drawing, painting and writing in her free time) and working with children.

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Lilo Herzig, the 2017-2018 Crailsheim exchange student to Worthington, is seated in front of the Bridge to Crailsheim sculpture in Chautauqua Park. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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