The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 13, 2012

Exchange students from Germany, Palestine learn about game of football by playing on Conneaut Spartans team

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Conneaut has become a second home for foreign exchange students Laith Alami and Daniel Buhl. Each of them grew up from very different parts of the world. Both came to the United States with high hopes of great experiences and to improve their educations.

Laith Alami, age 16, came to America in order to receive a better education and to try new things. Because he was born and raised in Palestine, his life has been very different from the typical American.

“In the United States I have many freedoms that I don’t back home,” Alami said. “Palestine is under occupation, so it makes life very difficult. I grew up in a very violent environment.”

Education is also very different in the United States compared to Palestine. Academic success rests solely on the effort of the student. Students’ grades are based 90 percent on tests, which can prove to be very difficult for some students. They also take up to 13 different courses a year, which they do not get to choose.

Alami’s main interests revolve around sports. Back in Palestine, he is a huge soccer fanatic. He said he would practice for four hours every day and would do anything to be on a soccer field.

When he came to America, however, he wanted to try something new, so he joined the football team. He became the team’s kicker and earned some very crucial varsity minutes. Kicking a football became second nature to him after a few weeks. He ended up earning a varsity letter.

“It was amazing,” Alami said. “The football team is a big family. I was on one of the best soccer teams back home, but we did not have a bond like the Conneaut football team does.”

Alami also decided to try wrestling for a winter sport and is undecided if he will participate in another sport during the spring. He said when he leaves at the end of June, he is going to miss football and his new friends the most.

Daniel Buhl, age 15, came from Germany to experience and learn more about the “Land of the Free.”

“I wanted to leave home for a year to think about myself, without any interruptions,” Buhl said.

He also felt it would be a great opportunity to improve his English.

Buhl thought there were a few differences between the United States and Germany. First, he felt everything was much bigger and farther apart here.

“The first time I walked into Wal-Mart my jaw dropped. I expected something big, but not that big,” he said with a laugh.

He also explained that in Germany there is much more public transportation and you have to reach the age of 17 in order to attain a driver’s license.

School in Germany is not very similar compared to America. Buhl said the school system is completely different. One major difference is that teachers sometimes do not show up to class, meaning the students would not have to attend either. They also have to take the same classes up to 11th grade.

Like Alami, Buhl also got to be a part of the Conneaut High School football team.

“It was awesome,” Buhl said. “I learned so much within the 10 weeks. Not only did I learn about football, but I learned a lot about myself. The team and sport are great. I had a lot of fun.”

Along with football, Buhl is also involved with show choir. He loves singing, and is an overall music enthusiast.

“Music is my life. Both of my parents are involved with music back home,” said Buhl.

One thing Buhl said he truly enjoys about America is all of the different experiences. Each day reveal something new that he would not experience back in Germany. With each new experience, a new interest is formed. That is one of his favorite things about the United States.

Buhl says he is going to miss all of his new friends when he leaves. He also is not looking forward to leaving in June. Both Alami and Buhl have found their place at Conneaut High School. Students and staff try their best to make their experience as rewarding as possible.