Petersburg High School sophomore, Abi Anderson, (in hat) stands among other Rotary exchange students: Emma (Finland) Taylor (USA) me Lauren (USA) Iaisah (Mexico). Anderson has spent the last year in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Abi Anderson)

Two Petersburg High School students were part of a year-long international exchange program through the Rotary Club. Abi Anderson went to Germany and Kara Newman to Sweden. But the worldwide coronavirus outbreak changed their schedule. Newman is back in the U.S. while Anderson is still overseas.

Now, we’ll hear from Abi Anderson and what it’s like sheltering in place in Germany. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

Lately, Abi Anderson has been spending her days hunkered down near her host family’s country home outside of Celle in Northern Germany.

“Yeah, I haven’t been able to do much,” Anderson said.

The sophomore first heard about COVID-19 after winter break when she went back to school. It wasn’t long after that, that they closed down the schools. That was the end of February-beginning of March. At first, they thought it might only last a few weeks and Anderson did school work from home but, of course, that has stretched out to a few months.

“I haven’t been able to meet up with any of my friends because of what has happened,” Anderson said.

Stores in Germany are closed or are limiting customers.

Anderson is in a holding period with the hopes the country can eventually open back up. She had planned to travel Europe with Rotary’s inbound exchange students from other countries but that’s been called off.

“Everything has been canceled,” she said. “Nothing is guaranteed.”

Even though things are in limbo, Anderson has stayed on with the hope that she can still have more Germany experience.

For the time being, she’s enjoying getting to know her host family as well as their hilly, tree-covered landscape.

“I can walk around their homestead. They have a lot of dirt roads you can walk down,” Anderson said. “They have a dog so we can walk with the dog or we play games or watch TV, cook, and do anything else household that needs to be done.”

Overall, Anderson has really enjoyed her exchange, which began late last summer. She’s loved getting to know new people, a new school, and new places. She says she approached the program with an open mind. She told herself to expect the unexpected. Still, even though she knew Germans would speak a lot of English she didn’t know just how much.

“My school that I go to has two English classes per day sometimes,” Anderson said. “And the classes also had English videos. So, it was like English and German mix.  I wasn’t expecting that much English to be in a school.”

Anderson had started learning the German language before she left the U.S. And she’s continued practicing with her host family.

When she was in the German high school, Anderson says it was different high school back home. She had a lot more classes than she did in the U.S.

“But they were all great,” she said. “And the teachers were all like (speaking in German, ‘Welcome to Germany!’) and many people helped me out there.”

Culturally, she says Germany is very similar to America. People eat the same kind of meals at the same time of day. She says any differences that she’s noticed are very subtle like some people seem a bit more punctual and perhaps a little more direct.

“They’re a little more straight forward,” Anderson said. “Like my friends, they’re just like, ‘I’m going to be straight forward with you.’ Not dodging the question.”

More than noticing social differences, Anderson says she’s noticed architectural details with buildings and streets.

“Most of the roads are kind of like brick patterns,” she said. “And oh man, those are kind of hard to ride on and then they do have a lot more castles around here.  And most of the houses are wood and brick mixture.”

Anderson’s exchange is supposed to go until the end of July but a lot remains up in the air. As she puts it:

“If I do the math that’s one third of my exchange that I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

For now at least, she remains optimistic that Germany will be safe enough to ease restrictions so she can have more adventures abroad.  


KFSK also heard from Kara Newman, another Petersburg High School exchange student who lived in Sweden this year. When the coronavirus hit, Newman decided to leave Sweden early after hearing that international borders were closing.