Exchange student’s visit is a learning experience

Maple Lake is a long way from Berlin, but Paul Blache considers the trip and the year he’s spending at Maple Lake High School an investment in his future.

Blache, a 17-year-old German exchange student, is a senior at MLHS and living, since his arrival on Labor Day weekend, with Charlie and Terri Malachek.

“I wanted to learn the language for a job in the U.S. later,” he said of his decision to spend a year in Maple Lake.

And of course, Maple Lake is considerably different from Blache’s home in Berlin, where he lives with father, Stefan; mother, Rufina; 13-year-old brother, Francisco; and 12-year-old brother, Johannes.

“It’s very different,” Blache said. “In the city, we have transportation such as buses to go where you want. Here, you have to wait for someone to pick you up in a car.”

Another difference is the American fascination with vehicles of all types.  “In the city, we don’t have four-wheelers or ATVs or snowmobiles,” Blache said. “I can’t drive any vehicle here except a lawn mower,” he laughed. “The other seniors come with their own cars to school, and Charlie said I should take the lawn mower to school.”

A parking lot full of students’ cars isn’t the only difference between school here and in Germany.

“We have no multiple choice tests in Germany,” Blache said. “Teachers change rooms and we don’t have lockers. We bring a backpack wherever we go.”

And extracurricular activities are unheard of in German schools.  “In Germany, we don’t have school spirit or school teams,” Blache said. “We do activities outside of school.”

For Blache, those activities include rowing with friends and playing guitar, for which he is taking lessons in St. Cloud.

The school day is also very different in Maple Lake.  “Every day in Germany, we have different classes. I had 13 different classes,” Blache said, noting that they were set on different days during the week. “Here, they have the same schedule every day.”

American food is nothing new to Blache, with McDonald’s and Burger King having long ago established their presence in Germany. But he said that since his mother’s parents are from Korea, he is accustomed to eating Asian food at home, although he has developed a new fondness for Embers and Subway restaurants.

And Blache is also fond of American religious customs.  “A lot of Germans don’t go to church,” he said. “Here, I go to church with my American family. I enjoy it.”

He has enjoyed meeting the people of Maple Lake.  “I think I like it more in the city because I grew up in the city,” Blache said. “This is a small town, but there are many nice people.”

When he returns to Germany at the end of the school year, Blache said he will decide on which college to attend, perhaps attending school in England. But he hasn’t made a decision on what course of study to purse.

“I have chosen many classes in the science area,” Blache said of his possible areas of interest. “And of course, language. That’s why I’m here.”