Open Mind Key To Exchange Experience

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The BMWx5 is the biggest car exchange student Anne Szabo sees on the road in her hometown, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

"When I first came to Payson I thought, ‘Oh my God, they have big cars and big trucks,'" Szabo said. "We actually don't have any trucks. I was like, whoa."

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Being open to the experience is the best thing a stranger in a strange land can do according to exchange student Anne Szabo.

She couldn't wait to send pictures to her friends at home of her standing in the doorway of a truck.

"The door ended higher than my waist," she said. "I love trucks."

Ford trucks, especially some of the classic models, have caught her eye.

She doesn't think she will get to drive here for liability reasons although she longs to get behind the wheel.

Eighteen is the magic driving age in Germany. A driver's license costs about $1,500 back home, so she is studying for her license here and it will cost $340 to transfer it to Germany.

But in her home country, the public transportation is such that it isn't necessary to drive.

"In Germany, we have a lot of busses and trains going 24 hours a day," she said. "I could go everywhere. You don't have to ask someone to give you a ride. Yeah, I think I miss that the most."

German teens have more freedom in some ways, Szabo said.

"There are a lot of clubs and bars we go to dance," she said.

(At 16, German teens can drink wine and beer and it is legal to smoke.)

In Payson, Szabo splits her time between Payson Center for Success and Payson High School.

One big contrast Szabo said she has noticed between schools in Germany and those here are the teachers themselves.

German teachers are "reserved" and "wouldn't talk with students about their private lives," Szabo said. American teachers are more "social."

"I'm a senior at Payson Center for Success and I am going to graduate here," she said.

"I had good enough grades so when I go back I won't have to repeat 11th grade, but I will have to go for two more years because Albertus-Magnus Gymnasium students attend school for 13 grades.

"I think it is awesome that I can graduate because that will look really good on my applications," she said.

As much as she loves to travel, Szabo misses her parents Doris and Victor, her sister Katrin and her pets -- an Arabian horse named Morano and the family collie and golden retriever.

Her friendship with her host sister Erin Pitterle has made her less lonely.

English is Szabo's second language. She has been studying it since fifth grade. Fluent in French and Latin, she is now studying Spanish at Payson High School in anticipation of a tourism internship in South America when she starts college.

Szabo's advice to teens who want to be foreign exchange students: "Be open to the people, to their behavior and their beliefs. Don't judge. Just because something is different doesn't mean it is bad. Be extroverted."

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