Exchange student adjusts to Quincy life
Marie Schlederer was in her Spanish class for two weeks before her teacher realized there was a foreign exchange student in the class.
That’s because the Austrian-born Schlederer, a junior this year at Quincy High School and a Rotary exchange student, has an accent that is undetectable to some. Schlederer studied English at home, as well as German and Italian, and is now adding Spanish to her repertoire.
“I am really glad to know English and understand everything,” she said. “If you don’t know the language, it’s harder to make friends in school. Since I understand everything, the teachers expect more from me.”
The past few weeks have been a bit of a daunting journey for Schlederer, who was hoping to study in Canada or Australia.
“I thought I was going to B.C., and then they told me I was going to Washington,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you go. It matters what people you meet and the connections you make.”
With the support of her parents, especially her father Josef, a Rotarian, Schlederer was encouraged to make the journey across the Atlantic to the United States. The trip took 20 hours.
“I was afraid of going on the plane alone because I am a little afraid of flying,” Schlederer said. “I met two other exchange students on the plane, and they were really nice. I didn’t get lost trying to find my gate, and I am proud of that.”
Schlederer comes to Quincy from her hometown of Leoben, Austria, in the state of Styria. She lives there with her father, her mother Bernadette and a younger brother. Leoben is the second largest city in the state with 30,000 people. Graz, the largest city in Styria, is a half hour away.
No stranger to farming life, Schlederer lives in the hills on the family’s small farm. Her parents are veterinarians, and they have a bevy of animals living on their land, including sheep, chickens, goats and occasionally a few turkeys.
Dan and Frances Nielson of Quincy are hosting Schlederer this year. She is looking forward to doing some traveling with her host family, and she hopes they can go to San Francisco, which she visited with her own family when she was 6 years old.
Schlederer is adjusting to the differences between the Austrian and American school systems. In Leoben, 16-year-old Schlederer is in her junior year at BG/BRG (Bundesgymnasuim) Leoben 1. At her school, students are assigned classes; they don’t choose their classes as students in the United States do.
In Austria, Schlederer would have 14 subjects on her schedule for the year. Schlederer took classes such as Italian, history, math, German, geography and biology. Subjects are taught on selected days of the week.
“Here the classes are the same every day, so it can be a little boring,” she said. “It is cool that you go to different classrooms and meet other students. At my school you have the same classes with the same people all year long.”
Schlederer also has interests beyond school, including playing the guitar and piano, which she studied for eight years, as well as singing. She described herself as a creative person, also enjoying drawing and dancing. This past summer, when her school was on their nine-week summer break, Schlederer went to a diving school in Grublsee, Austria. Upon completion of her class, her family took a vacation to the Indian Ocean, where she swam with manta rays and other sea life.
In Austria, Schlederer plays floorball. The sport is like floor hockey but is played indoors with sticks and a plastic ball.
“In Austria, we don’t have any school teams,” she said. “If we want to be on a team, we have to go to a club. I like that we can join teams here and it’s free.”
Schlederer joined the girls’ volleyball team at QHS. It is a new experience for her; she’s only ever played an occasional game on the beach.
Schlederer already has visited the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, where she felt at home. To the Austrian, the tourist town of Leavenworth is similar to a typical small, Austrian village.
“In Leavenworth you can also buy schnitzel and bratwurst,” she said. “The food there is the same as what there is back home.”
— By Tammara Green, QVPR contributor