The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Katie Wallace

Josua Tapken

Home city: near Braman, Germany

Host Family: Freshman Kendra Pinkard

Grade: 11

What inspired you to become a foreign exchange student?

“My siblings and mother already did their exchange here, and they were all pretty happy about that choice. My mother, sister and brother went near Detroit, Mich., and my other brother went to Minnesota.” 

Did you get any say in where you studied?

“No, I just picked the U.S. I didn’t have one state I wanted to be in, so it wasn’t stressful.”

Is there any language barrier?

“Not often, but sometimes I don’t understand a [specific] word. [When that happens, I] ask normally if I really need to know, otherwise very often, I would just get it out of the context.”

What has your transition been like?

“It wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have much of a problem with jet lag or something like that. Getting people to know was the hardest part. The thing is, there were already friend groups, especially in the junior grade. So getting into those, I guess [was] not the easiest thing, but swim team helps a lot with that.” 

Breaking a knife in the process, junior Joshua Tapken carves pumpkins for the first time with his host sister, freshman Kendra Pinkard. With experience hosting college students when they used to live in Seattle, Pinkard’s family decided to host Tapken when they saw a Facebook post about it. “We certainly like learning about different cultures [and] meeting new people, so that’d be fun. It’s a little bit difficult because now we have three people and two parents, so getting rides [and] managing schedules has become a lot more important. And going to the store has become more frequent. It’s a little bit more chaotic, but [there’s] not a huge difference,” Pinkard said. “Hearing him talk about his hometown as well is very interesting to hear all the differences between Germany and here and [also,] the stereotypes of German people and how untrue they are.” (Courtesy of Kendra Pinkard)

Have you ever been to America before now?

“Yes, I have visited the exchange family [that hosted] my mother about six times.” 

Did you get any culture shock?

“Not really, no.”

What has been your best experience here so far?

“The swim team and how nice the people are. They’re just very [welcoming]. The first day I started swimming [senior] Adam [Lambert] came to me and asked me for my number so he could put me into the GroupMe, which was pretty nice and helpful.” 

What has been your most difficult experience here so far?

“Getting a place to sit at lunch, I think that was the hardest. Normally, in Germany, I didn’t go to lunch at school. We had breakfast at school, but at lunch, we could have it at home because school days were shorter. That’s why I guess I didn’t have any experience with lunch at school. [Now,] I have my usual swim team people I sit with.” 

How does school here compare to school in your home country?

“It’s a lot different. School is a lot longer, especially because of the two hours of swimming every day. It’s also bigger, my school in Germany was 400 people [total].” 

Is there any specific aspect of home you miss?

“The people there.” 

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