Jan Keller Tells of His Experience At Spring Lake


Nikhil Joshi, Reporter

By Nikhil Joshi

During Thanksgiving break, I was in Köln, Germany, to visit my mom’s friends. As a senior in highschool, she hosted a German exchange student for one month. They remained friends ever since. In this edited conversation with this former exchange student, Jan Keller, we discussed the experience he had during his month here in Spring Lake.

When did you go to Spring Lake?

  1. I believe it was either March or April. I was seventeen.

What do you remember about going to an American high school?

It was totally different compared to in Germany, and I thought it was more fun to go to school there, because they had a better [sic] identification with school than we have in Germany. Everything was exciting, I even liked math! I think it was kind of different, because you would always take those multiple choice tests, (but) we didn’t have that here in Germany, so we always had a lot of questions where you had to answer them in your own words and stuff. Multiple choice was much easier, because even if you don’t know it, you still have a chance to get the right answer.

When you came to America, what was the most difficult kind of “culture shock” you went through, or the biggest difference?

Culture shock? Actually, there was no culture shock, because I always wanted to go to America. Maybe this is not so much a “shock”, but the food that is served is bigger than I was used to in Germany. When your grandma picked me up at the airport, she said, “Are you hungry?” and I said yes, of course I was, so she said “Okay, let’s go to Burger King.” She ordered me a Double Whopper, and I remember sitting next to your mother with this huge Double Whopper in my hand. It was good though, I liked it a lot. I love the food there.

What would you consider your favorite part of American culture?

I always said— I don’t know if this is still the case— that they are really open-minded (Everyone in the car laughs). But maybe I was young and naive. But I really liked that everybody was friendly. I liked that there was a friendly atmosphere.

What was something you didn’t like so much?

In the States, at that time, there wasn’t really anything I didn’t like. I liked everything.

How did you gain from your experience studying abroad?

I still gain from it. This was at the end of my school career, and until then my English wasn’t as good, but when I went to the States, I got a totally different feel of the language and was more able to use it. Since then, I started to read books in English, and I knew that I didn’t have to know all the vocabulary, but I still can know what it’s about. And I can still profit from [that experience].

So, would you recommend studying abroad?

Yes, of course, I also recommended it to my daughter, even though I know it would be really sad to let her go to another country, but I said “If you have the chance, do it.”

I am very lucky to have visited Jan and gotten to speak to him about this. I learned more about what it’s like to be an exchange student, and how America is viewed by people from other countries. During my trip, I met another German former exchange student who went to Spring Lake named Tom. These people have maintained connections with my mom and other former Spring Lake students, after almost 30 years, and Jan ended up officiating my parents’ wedding. Experiences like Jan’s show how our school has continued to impact foreign exchange students to this day.