Weit Weg Von Zu Hause: Laryssa Laho prepares to spend her senior year in Germany

Junior Laryssa Laho’s journey into the German language and culture began when she was in fourth grade. “My sister started taking German six years ago,” Laho explained. “She would come home and say these little phrases that I started to pick up on. . . I wanted to learn more German, [because] I already liked it.” This made her decision on what language to pursue a simple one.

Another easy decision for her to make was to go on the German language trip last summer. “I didn’t have a question about it,” Laho said. “I came home and said, ‘Hey mom, we have the information for the German trip’, and she was like, ‘Ok, how much does it cost?’, it wasn’t a question of, ‘do you want to do it?’, we just knew I was going.” For Laho, being able to apply her learning outside of the classroom was the most exciting part of the trip. 

While in Germany, Laho’s appreciation for the German language and culture grew. “I love how literal it is’ ‘, explained Laho, “If you know parts of words, you can figure out other words. . . it just made sense to me.” Another aspect of Germany Laho loved was how much they rely on the honor system. “You just follow the rules no matter what,” she said. “A really good example of this is with their train cards. You always pay for your train card, because you’re supposed to, but not on every train does somebody come and check if you’re supposed to be there. . . A system like that wouldn’t work in America, people would just take the risk of paying a fine, but in Germany that works. I think that’s incredible.” However, the German trip only lasted 10 days, and because of COVID, Laho wasn’t able to stay with a host family, so she was only able to scratch the surface of what life in Germany was truly like. 

The second Laho got home she knew she wanted to go back. Laho longed to dig deeper into the culture and language, and even hoped to become fluent. So, she reached out to German teacher, Michelle Strassburg, to see if there were any other exchange programs that were available to her. Luckily, Strassburg was able to find something through CBYX. CBYX is a program that is funded by both German and American governments and specializes in sending students to live in other countries. To get into the program, Laho had to submit five personal essays and complete multiple different interviews, which took several months. Now that she has been accepted, next year Laho will attend a German high school for the entirety of the year. “For my first month in Germany, I will be at a language camp,” said Laho, “learning the language, and it is automatically adjusted to my level.” Then she will live with a host family. 

Though Laho has a deep love for Germany, she still worries about missing out on her senior year at BHS. “I don’t get to go to my senior prom,” Laho added, “I don’t get to walk in graduation because I’ll be out of the country. . . and it really sucks to be surrounded by all these people who get to do that.” In spite of this, she is still excited about the program. “I just have to sit there and remember, it’s ok, I’ll be in Germany.” Laho agreed that being in Germany is more fun than anything she will miss. She even plans on attending a German university in the future. 

This entire process has taught Laho the importance of self-advocacy. “Opportunities aren’t going to appear for you,” she said. “I have to create my own opportunities and advocate for something I want to do, and that’s the best way to do anything you want.” Leaving the country is a scary endeavor for anyone, especially a teenager, but Laho said that among all the emotions she feels the strongest one is excitement.

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Olivia Telecky

Olivia (Livi) Telecky is a Senior at Buffalo High School and full time PSEO student at the University of Northwestern Saint Paul. In the future, she plans on studying abroad in Ireland and majoring in Political Sciences and Creative Writing.

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