German Student Experiences American Life

The Fry family and Maxi (on the far right).
The Fry family and Maxi (on the far right).

Maxi Petzold, a German native from the eastern city of Chemnitz, is in the middle of her foreign exchange program in the United States where she has been living with the Fry family since September. While staying with the Fry family, Maxi is attending Milford High School (MHS), seeing what it means to be an American teenager, as she is expected to graduate with the rest of her class in June.

Seventeen-years-old, Petzold has taken a journey that many at her age would find not only challenging but intimidating. When she stepped off the plane in the United States she knew very little of the English language. A difficult situation for both Maxi and the Fry family, the pair were in luck as the family brought with them Holger Vetter, a German native that was an exchange student with Hollie Fry’s family many years ago.

Once home and enrolled in school, the excitement began for Maxi, Kerrie and Hollie Fry and their three children. Each shared something that was important to their family and culture. The Fry family took Maxi to sporting events with the kids, church services and held family game night. Petzold introduced the family to Kaffeetrinken, German for drinking coffee, where her family shares cookies and cakes while talking about their week ahead.

“I think she has adjusted very well, especially for someone as young as she is,” commented Kerri Fry, father of the family. “As soon as she got there she was thrown into the rat race of three different kids, schools and jobs.”

Attending Milford High School, Maxi was immediately faced with challenges over the differences in education. Studying sixteen subjects a year in Germany, she is currently enrolled in four classes which she will have now until the end of June.

“I like school here, in Germany there is more practice but everything is strict, once you learn something you move on to the next lesson if you learned it or not,” commented Maxi. “Here we are able to take some time and learn things, when you do something it is fun. You have a friendship with the teachers.”

Petzold also pointed out that in Germany only students with good enough marks move to secondary school while those with not so good marks must stay in middle school, grades ten through twelve, and graduate from there before they attempt secondary school. She has become very active at Milford High School becoming a football cheerleader and a swimmer for the MHS teams. In the spring she will possibly take up softball, a sport she says is not found often in Germany.

An only child in her family, Maxi is experiencing what it is like to live among three other children, as the Fry family helps them with school work, sports and every day activities. The oldest daughter Kiera, who is fifteen, is closest to Maxi’s age and has been a critical part of helping Petzold adjust to life in a foreign country.

“I really miss Kiera, Maxi stated after Kiera was gone three days on a trip. “She has really helped me understand things. I can tell her what I think about my family and school.”

Hollie and Kerri say that this experience has been just as important for Kiera as it has been for Maxi. “Kiera usually keeps to herself,” commented Kerri. “Now she gets to see Maxi and how independent she is. It is good for Kiera to see that she can go to another country, travel outside her comfort zone and survive.”

Both Kiera and Kerri will be traveling to Chemnitz, Germany for ten days in October to bring Maxi home and meet the Petzold family. Maxi is excited to show her American family her hometown and have them experience their family meals.

“I want to show them my city and how we live,” she stated. “I am really looking forward to seeing how well Kerri speaks German when he comes to visit,” Maxi added with a laugh.