Life on the Other Side of the Pond

Life on the Other Side of the Pond

Sophomore Mirja Heimann, an exchange student from Germany comes to Potomac Falls High School for the American high school experience.

    As Loudoun County Public Schools returned to in-person classes, Mirja Heimann applied to be an exchange student for the first semester at Potomac Falls. Moving to a new country by herself, Heimann has had to step out of her comfort zone and make many adjustments along the way.

    Heimann enjoyed her vacation in the United States in 2019, which inspired her to seek ways to come back and spend more time here. An added bonus was an opportunity “to improve my English,” said Heimann.

    Moving to a new country came with multiple adjustments, especially with the school system. “When I first came here, it was all new and a whole different [school] system. I had to figure out how everything works,” said Heimann.

    One of Heimann’s favorite classes is her Public Speaking elective. “When you actually have to give a speech, you know what to do and what not to do, and that’s really helpful,” said Heimann.

    In Germany, Heimann enjoyed participating in gymnastics and dance. In the U.S., she has immersed herself in new extracurricular activities.“I go to the skate park several times a week and do skateboarding and pickleball,” said Heimann. “I [also] joined the Pet Rescue Club.”

    Although living in Virginia is full of new and exciting happenings, Heimann does miss her life in Germany.“[I] miss my friends and family, [but] I always text them and call them,” said Heimann.

    Heimann shares her perspectives on the differences between school in Germany and school in Virginia. “In Germany, from fifth to ninth grade, you have the same class and you do everything with that class, [for example] you go to different subjects with them,” said Heimann. “[However] I like it here [better] because you get to know a lot [more] people.” 

    After living in Virginia for a few months now, Heimann points out many differences she notices about society in Germany compared to Virginia. “The communities are different and the way the city’s organized. Here you need your car to go anywhere, [but] in Germany, you can walk or go by bus [or] train,” said Heimann. “[Also] most people [in Germany] don’t have air conditioning.”

    Being an exchange student allows Heimann to make memories she’ll cherish forever. “We went on a boat tour with our neighbors and the sun was shining and it was just really nice,” said Heimann. Not only is the exchange student experience unique, it is also a big step in becoming independent, including making decisions without your parents in the real world.