Published Oct. 2, 2023
BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
Annika Dierksheide has always had a passion for adventure and pursuing the unknown. Channeling this passion in the best way she knows how, the German will be completing her junior year as an exchange student at Carmel High School.
For the exchange student, this decision to study abroad came mainly from a desire for something unique and for a greater cultural awareness.
“I did it for fun,” Dierksheide says. “I wanted the experience and the cultural aspect.”
Dierksheide’s study abroad experience is affiliated with two organizations. The German-based Experiment e.V., one of the world’s oldest non-profit exchange organizations, worked with the exchange student to find the partner organization that matched her desires. The Council on International Educational Exchange, America’s oldest, non-governmental study abroad program, was the sister organization that led her to CHS.
“They organized everything for me,” says the junior, explaining that these programs provided a host family, established a local coordinator and covered the cost of the flight.
The Hamburg-native was able to get in touch with her host family prior to her big move, with these families being thoroughly interviewed to find the best candidates.
Offering services to six continents, Experiment e.V. allows exchange students to choose the country they will study in and in the case of the U.S., the program’s most popular destination, the state. Dierksheide and her family decided on California based on a combination of its weather and familiarity.
“It was the state we knew the best,” says Dierksheide, who has lived in Germany her entire life.
The German began studying English in the first grade, giving her an extremely strong foundation for entering a school system in a foreign language and steering her towards an English-speaking nation.
Coming from Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, the small town of Carmel was a stark change in more ways than one. Now a part of the CHS cheer team, Dierksheide was unable to pursue school athletics in Hamburg as sports were not offered through her school.
“School is very different here,” Dierksheide says. “In Germany, you had no school sports, events or dances. They’ve never heard the words ‘school spirit,’” she says with a laugh.
The cheerleader has already been able to reap the benefits of this leap into the unknown, with a smooth assimilation into this foreign culture so far.
“Everyone’s really open-minded here,” Dierksheide says, “so it’s been really easy to find friends here.”