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Posted: Jun 4, 2009  11:28

German Foreign Exchange Student Loves America


Berenike Balsereit Enjoys Living In Bonners Ferry.

Berenike Balsereit has only been in America since August, but she has had a lifetime of wonderful experiences here in Boundary County as a foreign exchange student.

"I wanted to grow emotionally and mentally," said Nike. "I wanted to broaden my horizons. I just really wanted to get to know new cultures and to learn to speak English better. I like adventures. I had no idea where I would go, whether it would be Florida, Montana or California. I just like to explore."

From the city of Koenigswinter, near Bonn, Germany, Nike and her mother worked on her packet for two months prior to being chosen as a foreign exchange student. She applied with Step In, a German foreign student exchange program who connected her with PAX, an American program.

Nike said that she hadn't heard much about Idaho before she was assigned to come here. When she looked on the internet and saw pictures of Idaho, she absolutely loved it.

"This is so pure, so natural," she exclaimed. "It's like what I always imagined America to be. In Germany, there are no more little towns, it's just a big, huge city."

Nike's host family, James and Kayla Scott and their children Hyrum, Jeremiah and Madeline (plus one on the way) have been a wonderful experience for Nike. Since she lives with just her mother in Germany, she had never had the experience of living in a family like theirs.

"This was the first experience of my life where I saw that a family can really work," she said solemnly. "The feeling of being in a family has been wonderful. We have traveled a lot to Washington and Montana. They're not couch potatoes. They're very sporty."

Nike has enjoyed attending Bonners Ferry High School. She said that she loves the people at the school because they are nice and friendly. Nike mentioned that in Germany, the teachers just do their jobs, but at BFHS, the teachers are friends as well as teachers. At Moose Madness, Nike was chosen to draw the moose blind folded and won the competition for the school.

Although Nike had never performed before she came to Idaho, since being here, she has gotten very involved in the high school music and the theater programs. She was given a lead role in the recent performance of The Fantastiks, is a member of both mixed choir and Honor Choir, as well as the community-based Swingin' on a Star: the Bonners Ferry Children's Choir.

"The Fantastiks was the first time I ever performed," she said. "It was sad because my mother wasn't there, but my host family was there and they were proud of me. It was such a good experience. I barely sang before I got here, but I thought, "Here I am in America, the land of singing," so I just decided to go for it. I was so thrilled to be chosen for Honor Choir."

Nike said that she has been able to travel to Hawai'i and New York through the exchange program. She has met many other foreign exchange students and realized that her experience in Bonners Ferry has been exceptionally positive.

"I'm probably the luckiest foreign exchange student," she exclaimed. "I came to a wonderful family who truly cares about me and I've had such great experiences here. This is what I like about America: there are some people who have amazing talents. They're young, they come out of themselves. They're so amazing."

Nike will be bidding a fond farewell to North Idaho on June 27. When she returns to Germany, she will spend the next three years in high school, then she wants to come back to America and travel all over the country. She plans to study medicine in Vienna, Austria for six years, then wants to work for the Doctors Without Borders program to provide health care to the poor people in Africa.

"It's going to be very hard to leave here," she said. "I have so many friends here and I love my host family so much. I hope people will come to visit me. I live near the Rhine River where there are mountains and castles. It's a magic place with so many old buildings and ruins. It's an area of a lot of myths and legends. I will definitely keep in touch with everyone here."


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