From brick Victorian and French gothic architecture to wheat fields, senior Jana Engels has made a big move from her hometown of Plaidt, Germany, all the way to Kansas for the school year.
“She has been here for a month now, and it is like we have known her, her whole life,” Kristen Stoudt, Engels’ host mom, wrote in an email.
Stoudt chose Engels in December 2020, making it almost a year after that she finally got to meet Engels.
“After all of the paperwork was finalized we got to meet her over Zoom,” said Stoudt, who has two daughters aged 7 and 9. “My daughters had prepared a list of 20 questions for her. She was so sweet and understanding and patient with their strange and goofy questions. All of the kindness and patience she showed the girls on Zoom is just as present today with a hint of big sister.”
The common theme among those closest to Engels is her absolute kindness.
“I met her at freshman orientation,” senior Hailey Jeffery said. “I saw that she had a Panic! At the Disco shirt on, so I thought she seemed really cool. Everytime we hang out, she is the nicest person.”
The difference between Germany and America is large, resulting in plenty of culture shocks.
“It is almost like the pandemic never happened here,” Engels said. “In Germany we had to wear a mask. Here, like nobody is wearing a mask.”
She also shows interest towards the little things that teens in America shrug off.
“I was really excited about the cars. Almost everyone here has a car,” Engels said. “In my hometown we have so many buses and that is what I use to get around.”
Jeffery added: “There has been quite a few culture shocks — Derby Night Lights or American football in general because they don’t have that in Germany, and Derby is a big football town.”
Engels also talked about the societal difference.
“Everyone here is more open compared to Germany. Everyone here is willing to talk to me and just really open,” Engels said.
Though the move was big and there are a lot of overwhelming changes, one thing is constant for Engels, sports.
“Hailey convinced me to start playing tennis because soccer season isn’t until spring. I am really enjoying it so far,” Engels said.
Tennis ended up helping Engels connect and make more friends at the school.
Soccer is still her first pick, though. It’s what connects her to her family and friends in Germany.
“I got into soccer at the age of 5 because of my older siblings,” Engels said. “I started in a boys soccer team from my hometown because they didn’t have one for girls…. I played 11 years in the team but had to say goodbye this year because I can’t keep up with them anymore when I come back from the U.S.”
She was singled out by opponents for being a female soccer player.
“It always depended on the team, but some boys are really frustrated if they lose against a girl,” said Engels, who was cussed at and called fat. “Sometimes they just told me to go back to ballet because a girl should not be on the soccer field. I was able to ignore most of these, especially because my team was always on my side. Sometimes the comments were not only extremely sexist but also very personal so it wasn’t always easy to ignore.”