German exchange student Jakob Luxa joins the senior class

Two students—American senior Alex Hoffman, German transfer Jakob Luxa—stare at a math textbook that is not in Luxa’s native language. “Fifty-eight?” Luxa says as he points to a random page. “Do you even know what that means?” Hoffman asks. “Yes,” Luxa confirms.

Sponsored by the Intercultural Exchange Program Youth for Understanding, Luxa will be taking classes at West for the 2016-17 school year.


People are friendlier, at least they seem to be.”

— Jakob Luxa

“I want to learn about new people and culture here. School in the U.S. is easier—it’s less work,” Luxa said. “My favorite memory was probably the first day at school. People are friendlier, at least they seem to be.”

Luxa’s hometown of Trier, Germany is a 13 hour flight away from his current temporary residence in St. Louis, Missouri.

“The time change and temperature here is very different,” Luxa said. “I like the St. Louis Cardinals, but I miss German chocolate.”

Luxa’s host, Hoffman, has experience with German exchange students after opening his home to another two years ago.

“Jakob is a lot quieter. Two years ago, the German exchange student [we had] was upbeat and crazy, but he started to not like people here,” Hoffman said. “Jakob, on the other hand, is quiet and seems to be enjoying his time here.”

But challenges such as language barriers and cultural differences can make day-to-day life less than easy.

“It’s different [having a German exchange student] because he doesn’t always understand our culture, so I have to explain a lot to him that would be simple for us. We’ve had to explain what certain foods are or what signs say,” Hoffman said.

Luxa’s fluency in both English and German have allowed him to further the knowledge of others who wish to learn more about German culture and language.

“One of my favorite parts of class was when we were with a couple girls with a couple minutes at the end of class and they were working on German homework and they were stuck on a question,” science teacher Charlie Cutelli said. “And so they said to each other, ‘Well, he’s from Germany. He’d know. No, you go talk to him! No, you go talk to him!’ And they went back and forth for a while, and then finally one of them went over to him, and he explained what they were doing wrong and fixed it for them.”

While most of Luxa’s classes are chosen to reflect his level of English proficiency, his fifth hour AP German V class gives Luxa a chance to help other students learning his native language.

“He’s very quiet, but he’s helpful when I have a question about culture or specific language nuance that I can ask him. It’s great to have a native speaker in class,” German teacher Micheal Kloster said. “I’m always astounded by how responsible the German kids who come here are. It’s just a totally different world.”

The day after Luxa arrived in the United States, Latin teacher and JV soccer coach Tom Herpel saw him at tryouts for this season’s team.

“I was contacted by his host family before he arrived and was told that he was interested in playing and was planning on attending soccer tryouts. He was very eager to play,” Herpel said.

Luxa plays stopper and center midfield on the JV soccer team at West.

“Jakob loves taking shots on goal from really far away. Sometimes too far away,” Herpel said. “Our team had a free kick near half field and sure enough, Jakob took the shot and scored over the goalkeeper’s head.”

After spending the school year here, Luxa will be heading back to Trier, where he will be finishing his education.
“[To graduate, I’ll be] going back to Germany, and I think I have three more years until I graduate,” Luxa said. “