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Exchange Student Taking Home A Ton Of Memories

OSWEGO, NY – Graduation time is a time moving on. For Myriam Oosterkamp it was a time to say goodbye to new friends and head home.

Myriam is a foreign exchange student from Germany who stayed in Fulton with Mike Gibson and his family while attending G. Ray Bodley High School.

Myriam Oosterkamp
Myriam Oosterkamp

Recently she made the short trip north to chat with Oswego County Today about her experiences in America.

She lives in southern Germany in a small town called Wangen, near the Austrian border.

“I don’t ski a lot; but, the Alps are pretty close so I could go skiing whenever,” she said.

In general her hobbies include playing piano, singing, dance, and hanging out with her friends.

She has a 16-year-old sister at home. In Fulton her host sister, Sarese, is 17. She will travel to Germany next year to spend time with Myriam.

Myriam said she always wanted to go somewhere, know about different parts of the world and find out things first-hand.

“I like languages a lot, English is my favorite,” she said.

She laughs as she recalls the strange dialects she heard when accompanying her host family on trips to Long Island and New England.

She has studied English since the fifth grade.

“So it’s like easy for me now. I’m half Dutch, my mom’s Dutch, and it’s (Dutch) kind of between English and German. I was raised bi-lingual. That’s probably why I’m good at languages and like them,” she explained.

She has taken French for three years, “And I don’t like it as much,” she added. “We listen to a lot of English (especially in songs) so we get used to it.”

Her musical tastes are “mixed,” she said, adding, “I don’t like Country.”

“We don’t even have Country in Germany,” she explained. “Hip Hop isn’t my favorite, but I dance to it, I don’t really listen to it. I like music in general … except Country.”

She just completed her junior year of high school.

“In Germany, our whole (school) system is different. I am in 11th grade, but there are 13 grade levels; we have like two years for a senior year,” she explained.

“We have a week schedule in school. We don’t have the same schedule every day but every week. Our school days are shorter, they end at one O’clock,” she said. “The teachers are different. They are more like friends here. Our teachers are like, they’re more business like, sometimes more strict. We don’t see them as friends but as adults.”

She isn’t sure what she wants to be after high school, adding, “I have time. I have two more years of school.”

“My time here has gone by so fast! I feel like I just came here. It was January, I know, but I look through my scrapbook and I have done a lot here, been to a lot of places and met so many people. It feels like it should be a longer time, much longer,” she said.

“She has been going with my daughter and me to the dance competitions,” her host dad said. “She’s been to Massachusetts several times, Long Island, she went to New Jersey.”

“I haven’t really had time to sight see, I’ve just been to the competitions”, she pointed out. “I was in New York City in the beginning, before I came to my (host) family. That was with the program (Academic Year In America) for like three days.”

AYA is always on the lookout for new host families.

“Up in Fulton, we’re maxed out,” Gibson said. “We have already got our student for next year. Each school district tells (local coordinator Linda Germain) we can only have X number. Some of the kids are here for a whole year, some for half a year.”

What’s Myriam’s favorite thing in America?

“In general, it is to meet all the different people and to see how it is so different here. I like school because there I got to meet people of my age,” she said. “And, I like to see how things look different – Oswego with the lake and NYC with all the skyscrapers.”

It is flatter here – she is used to the Alps, she added.

“The food is way fattier here, more sugar. At home, we don’t have a microwave but a lot of families do. Here they do everything with a microwave,” she said.

She and her host family had wanted to do more traveling before she heads home to Germany next week.

They had planned to visit the 1,000 Islands region and were going to try and get her to Niagara Falls, her host dad added.

“We want to get her to do a few more museums before she leaves, too, including Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego,” he said.

What else does she want to do before leaving?

“A lot,” she said. “The time is going by so fast. If I was here for a whole year, I could have done more. My host sister is coming to visit me next year in Germany. We’ve planned it already, right?” she said with a nod to her host dad.

“Your host sister better start working her little butt off,” he smiled.

“I might come back with her to visit again,” Myriam added. “I don’t know. I like it here. I want to visit again when I can.”

Traveling was kind of hard, because she was here during the school year, so they don’t have a lot of time, her host dad said.

“Plus we just got done with seven months of winter,” he quipped. “If it was in the summer, we’d have more time to do things.”

“And now that it’s finally summer, I’m going back,” she bemoaned.

When she goes, she’ll be taking some pieces of America with her – pieces of candy that is.

“They have all different kinds of candy here,” she said. “We don’t have skittles and we don’t have jelly beans and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, no. Our chocolate is way better than American chocolate. But that is the only thing.”

The program has been a very good experience and she recommends it to other students.

“You learn what you experience. It is a much better way to learn. It’s just you; you’re on your own even though you have your host family. You’re still on your own and you learn about yourself and how you react to certain situations,” she said. “It makes you more mature.”

“I haven’t been homesick at all. I miss (friends and family), but I know that I’m going back. I want to live here while I’m here,” she said.

She stays in touch with friends and family with emails.

Her grandfather wanted her to tell people he is a famous art painter.

“He paints walls, but he is not ‘famous,'” she joked. He sent me a letter and said did you already tell them I am famous in the Netherlands?”

After school she will attend college and then she hopes to travel around the world some more.

“I want to travel more. I want to see different countries. Oswego, Fulton aren’t big cities. But my hometown is not big, either. It’s about 15,000 people. Maybe that’s why I like it so much here,” she said.

What would she like to take back as a souvenir?

“That’s hard,” she said. “Besides the stuff I’m already taking? I’m going to take candy (She has already mailed candy to Germany – ‘They wanted me to!’). What I’d like to take, but really can’t take, is the people I’ve met. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again. I’ll keep in contact (on the Internet) but it’s not the same.”

She’ll take back a Red Raider yearbook and DVDs of her experience at the County Legislature’s Youth Day and her dance recital.

“I have tons of pictures. I’m on track at school, so I have a track shirt and from dancing, I got a dance shirt,” she said.

For more information about the Academic Year in America program, contact Linda Germain, coordinator, at 216-6246 or email – [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Great story. I wish you well Myriam. I met you briefly at Youth Day at the Legislature. You are a great embassador for your country. I hope your time here was all you hoped for. My very best wishes.

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