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"Students exchange home for us." 
by Paul Morton, Associate Editor
Oberlin News-Tribune
October 8, 2002

Although they both come from half a world away, the two foreign exchange students at Oberlin High School this year have fit in well with their host families and their classmates.

Joanna Verejao, from northeast Brazil, and Arne von der Weppen, from Cologne, Germany, are both juniors at OHS this year.  They both play on the school soccer teams, and each has found a circle of friends with which to do typical teenage American activities.

And they have found they are welcome in their host families. Sue Detterman, youth pastor at First Church, said hosting Joanna has given her a renewed appreciation for parenting, and especially single parents.

“But to tell you the honest truth, having Joanna in my home has been an absolute joy,” Detterman said. “I don’t know how else to explain it. She just brings a sense of new life.”

Pam Schmid, whose family is hosting Arne, said her family fits in with Arne as well as he fits in with their family.

“He has a 13-year-old brother at home, same age as my son, Michael, so it really worked well,” Schmid said. “And Michael has an older brother who’s away from home, so he’s kind of been an only child for two year, and he’s just enjoyed Arne so much.”


“I am slowly learning how to cook, because the diet is different,” she said. “Especially from what I’m used to fixing for myself or throwing in the microwave for myself. I try to fix beans and rice, although I’m not used to fixing it every day or on a regular basis, and I’m getting used to that.”
Other food-related adjustments have come as a result of the students’ involvement in school. Because Arne is on the soccer team, Schmid said the family often eats later than they normally would – or Arne eats by himself after practice.
School has been an adjustment for both students in different ways. Joanna said school in Brazil normally goes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Here we have to change classrooms,” Joanna said. “In Brazil we don’t do that. We have to stay in the classroom and the teachers come to us.”
The idea of choosing the classes she took intrigued her, too. In Brazil, she said, all students take the same classes, so she has already taken chemistry and physics, even though she is only a junior this year.

Arne said being a member of the school soccer team is a change for him. German schools don’t have interscholastic sports.

“There are no sports in school,” he said. “You must join clubs to do sports.”


Joanna said she had decided long ago she wanted to be an exchange student, because her family had hosted students. But since those students were from Canada and England, those were her first choices for where she wanted to study.
“At first I wanted to go to Canada, but it was too cold,” Joanna said. “So I was like, so I’ll go to England, but that was too expensive, so I’ll go to America.”

Arne said he wanted to do something different during his high school career. His first choice was New Zealand, but when that didn’t work out he chose the United States.

At present, Joanna is planning to stay only the first semester and return to Brazil in January, but she is thinking now about staying the full school year. Arne will return to Germany in June, if Schmid lets him go.

“I’m just so attached to this kid, I’m already worried about June when he has to go home,” Schmid said. “I told his mother – she called from Germany – I said I don’t think I’m going to let him go home.”

Photo Caption, p. 1: Oberlin High School foreign exchange students Arne von der Weepen, from Germany, and Joanna Varejao, from Brazil, relax with a game of foosball, a tabletop version of soccer, which the two teens play at the high school.

Oberlin News-Tribune, Oberlin, Ohio, Tuesday, October 8, 2002, pp. 1 & 12.
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