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From Germany to Geneseo: Exchange student settling into temporary home
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Jay and Janelle Pettit, of Geneseo, and their children Calvin, 8, Carmella, 6, and Viola, 4, are a host family for Christoph Stemmermann from Germany.
Christoph Stemmermann, of Germany, is a foreign exchange student at Geneseo High School this year.

His host family is Jay and Janelle Pettit and their children, Calvin, 8, Carmella, 6, and Viola, 4.

Mr. Stemmermann is from the city of Dresden in the state of Saxony, in eastern Germany, which he said "was bombed by the U.S. in World War II."

While he is classified as a senior at Geneseo High School, when he returns to Germany, he will have two years of high school to complete.

He said the class schedule in Dresden is more ridged and is year-round. For the last two years, he's had primarily a math and science curriculum, and would like to take more business classes when he returns.

"There, it is more academics and less extracurricular," Mr. Stemmermann said. "We have seven to nine classes each day, with different classes every day of the week. Here, you choose your classes.

"At home, you have to do more. You have to think more," he said. "You are asked to think about why you do something, and you do not just do it. Like in my math and science classes, I had to explain more. I think you learn better here because you can choose your classes."

His current class schedule includes math, science and composition. He participated in cross country and is in choir and wrestling which is not available to him during his school day in Germany. He's also a member of the yearbook staff and enjoys photography.

Mr. Stemmermann is an accomplished violinist who began playing at age 6 and has played in an orchestra since third grade.He also takes dance classes in Germany, doing everything from ballroom to Latin dance.

Even though his English is fluent, Mr. Stemmermann said one reason he wanted to spend the school year in the United States "is to improve my English. My English will be awesome as I am learning every day new vocab words. The people here are awesome, too."

He said he likes being on his own for the first time. "It's going to broaden my horizons. I have made many friends and am having new experiences."

What Mr. Stemmermann doesn't understand are the age restrictions for driving and drinking in the United States.

"In Germany you can drink alcohol when you are 16, but you don't drive until you are 18," he said. "I think it is better that way because here it is not legal to drink until age 21, but young people drink when they are 16 anyway, and then they drive. At home you use public transportation. You do not drink and then drive."

When asked about food, Mr. Stemmermann said he likes Mrs. Pettit's chicken fajita bar when he can combine different toppings. In Germany, his favorite dish is a dumpling made of potatoes and bread and topped with a sauce.

"You eat more fast food here, but I work out a lot," he said.

He plans to spend some of the summer in the Geneseo area before returning to Germany. He said he may come back to the U.S. for college.

Mrs. Pettit said she and her husband learned about being a host family through Face the World, which was looking for a host family for Mr. Stemmermann.

"Jay and I both received the email solicitation," she said. "We came home from work that day thinking the same thing, that we were interested in hosting Chris."

The Pettits have been to Italy and Ireland and hope someday to take their children to Germany because both have ancestors from that country.

Mrs. Pettit said her children "love having Chris in the house and think of him as a big brother. Calvin especially enjoys having a brother to play ping pong, basketball and Minecraft (game). Our kids really enjoy learning about the violin and watching Chris play."

Mr. Stemmermann played the violin at St. Malachy's in Geneseo, and at a local nursing with another Geneseo student, Jack Roberts.

"It's been great for our kids to see Chris use his talents to bring joy to people around Geneseo," Mrs. Pettit said. "He also had the opportunity to provide accompaniment for one of the songs at the GHS fall concert."

In addition to his parents, Mr. Stemmermann has a sister and a brother in Germany. He Skypes with his family each week. "My family here is very, very nice, and I am too busy to be homesick."

Germany
-- Location: Central Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, between the Netherlands and Poland, south of Denmark.

-- Population: 81,305,856 (July 2012 estimate). No. 16 in the world.

-- Language: German.

Source: CIA World Factbook.


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