By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, MN Cedric Madee, 16, of Munich, Germany is spending his first trip to America as a foreign exchange student at Dassel-Cokato High School this year.
“I want to get better [at] speaking English, meeting new people from different countries, and getting to know a different culture,” he said.
One of the most significant differences Madee has noticed so far is America’s use of cars.
“I’m from a big city, so even a lot of the adults don’t have cars. [They] use the subway, or the bus,” he explained.
Madee also noted that the countries’ supper times are quite different Americans typically eat around 6 p.m., while Germans eat around 8 p.m.
Besides the habits of daily living, Madee stated that “nearly everything is different” when it comes to the education system, including how grades are recorded.
Rather than using letters, the German school system uses numbers ranging from 1 to 6, with 1 being the highest mark and 6 meaning failure.
“It is a lot harder to fail, because when we have 50 percent [on] a test, we still get a 4,” Madee commented.
After elementary school, students in Germany attend one of three schools each having a different level of difficulty which is determined by the students’ performance during their elementary years.
The least difficult school lasts for nine years; the second most difficult lasts for 10 years, and the most difficult lasts for 12 years.
“At [the most difficult] school, you get a good graduation,” said Madee. “And at the other ones you don’t get one or not a good one.”
Some other differences include having an every-other-day schedule versus an every-day schedule, and having classes year-round rather than switching them each trimester.
Despite these contrasts, Madee said, “It was pretty easy for me to adjust to DC, because I got a lot of help from my family in America and from my family and friends from Germany.”
Todd and Lissa Malenke of Dassel, and their son, David, 14, make up Madee’s host family, which was something they considered doing for years.
“We were shown several possible students, and it was fun reading about them and selecting someone who we thought would fit in with our lifestyle,” stated Todd. “We enjoy hearing and learning about where our student comes from, his lifestyle, likes, and dislikes.”
Some of Madee’s interests include longboarding, indoor-climbing, hanging out with friends, and spending time with his 2-year-old brother.
During school, he was the head of the Tech-Group, and was involved with a group that organizes school events.
While attending DC, Madee is a member of the fall musical’s tech crew, participates in the school’s strength and conditioning program, and is involved with the Boy Scouts when it fits his schedule.
In getting to know his host family and the state, Madee and the Malenkes have done many activities together, including, camping, hiking, games, biking, shopping, cooking, wood working, kayaking, attending a threshing show, and more.
“I really liked our state park tour,” said Madee, “where we visited a whole bunch of state parks near Duluth in two days.
“Another really cool thing was the trip to Chicago with my organization, where I met a lot of new friends from all over the world,” he added.
Two opportunities Madee hopes to have before heading back home is shooting a gun and visiting the Mall of America.
Other events the Malenkes hope to do include ice fishing, sledding, building a snowman, visiting Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, star gazing, go-cart racing, attending school events, and several other activities as they come up.
“This has been a great and fun experience for our family,” said Todd. “I would highly recommend taking advantage of hosting an exchange student. What better chance to be a goodwill ambassador for the United States?”
“These kids are taking a big chance in leaving their home, family, culture, and way of life,” he continued. “I’d like to think that with the simple effort of opening our home and welcoming a student, we can demonstrate that the world can be what you make of it.”
“I’m hoping this experience influences their lives in a positive way,” he added, “and [I am] happy to have expanded my family.”