A home away from home


David Kang, Feature editor

As he exits the airplane, he is engulfed in a wave of hot air. His hair blows backwards, the sun turning it a shade of gold as he steps foot in the United States for the first time. Yet, the change in weather is the least of his concerns — he would soon have to assimilate into a new education system. 

Junior Maximilian Braeuning went through the I-20 permit system, which allows him to study his junior year in California and return back to Kaiserslautern, Germany for his senior year.  Despite the drastic changes from his previous school, Braeuning is embracing the new environment. As his previous school had no sports teams, he finds solace in being able to join the varsity football team at Walnut.

“In Germany the school is not as long and I don’t have after school sports,” Braeuning said. “But I like it here more when there are sports after school. It’s my first time playing football. It is a lot of fun.”

Along with football, Braeuning has continued his passion for weightlifting at local gyms. Through his involvement in these physical activities, he has gained opportunities to socialize and acclimate to his new environment. 

“I loved to go to the gym in Germany and I can do it here too. It feels good that I can go to the gym and meet new friends who also like it,” Braeuning said. “Having friends from football makes me feel more comfortable because they come to me and talk to me. I like it because it’s easy to make friends that way.”

Braeuning is currently living with a host family arranged by the I-20 program. While it took some time to adjust to a new living arrangement, Braeuning now feels comfortable around his hosts.

“My host family makes me feel at home,” Braeuning said. “At first, it was really weird, but now they feels like family.”

Speaking and reading English is a barrier that Braeuning is learning to overcome. 

“I learn English [well] here, but  it’s hard for me [in class],” Braeuning said. “I need to read books in English and write essays about it. I told my teacher that it’s really fast for me and I talked to Mr. Newman but he told me that I can’t switch classes. I understand English, but it’s still hard for me to understand all the things.”

With English being the primary language at Walnut, he sometimes feels pressured to respond quickly in agreement despite not understanding the questions he is asked. 

“In biology my teacher talked to me and I just said yes,” Braeuning said.  “I don’t want to say, ‘No, I don’t understand that stuff.’ And then I forgot my homework because she told me I needed to do something else.”

In the future, Braeuning wants to continue to play football at Walnut, and eventually Germany, where he hopes to join the city team at Kaiserslautern after attending college. Whether it is his new friends or his love of football and In-N-Out, Braeuning’s time in the U.S. has given him a new perspective on the different lives people lead, allowing him to better understand the friends he has already made, and better relate to the other students at Walnut. Ω