Before and After: Foreign Exchange

Decatur students study abroad

Junior Lucas Nahmias did not walk a mile to get to school 10th grade year.  Instead, he took a 4,596-mile journey to Frankfurt, Germany to complete 10th grade.  

Although he felt nervous, he thought that “if I could do it, I really wanted to.”

Nahmias always wanted to learn another language, and an opportunity to live in Germany for a year was perfect for him.  The goal for the year was “full immersion.”

”I took all the classes a normal German kid had to take,” Nahmias said.  These included physics, chemistry, physical education, and English.  

Nahmias was given this scarf in Germany. He brought it back to Atlanta as a souvenir from his trip.

Nahmias has one regret about his preparation for the trip.  

“I wish I had studied more German,” Nahmias said.

The host family Nahmias stayed with did not speak English, and nearly every conversation took place in German.  

“[My host] dad could speak almost perfect English, but the rest of [the] family couldn’t,” Nahmias said.  “But it definitely was the biggest help for my German…I knew they wouldn’t judge me…I’m glad they couldn’t speak English.”

Nahmias recalls how he had trouble at the start of the school year “when [his] German just wasn’t good.”

“Ordering food and stuff was difficult,” Nahmias said.  “My German was always good enough to get a point across, but my biggest problem was being confident enough in my German. It [is] a lot harder to be outgoing in another language.”

Junior Maya Wallis is up for this challenge.  She will be spending her junior year in Seville, Spain.

“I think it would be really cool to experience something other than Decatur,” Wallis said.  

She has lived in Decatur since she was six, and is eager to explore somewhere other than Decatur.

“One of my favorite things to do here is to find new coffee shops or great restaurants,” Wallis said.  “I feel that’s going to be something that I’m really excited to do [in Spain] because I like finding little niche spots…It would be cool to have places that are special to me somewhere else in the world.”

Nahmias also enjoyed the freedom to explore in a new country.  

”There are trains [in Germany] and they make such a difference,” Nahmias said.  “Within six hours you could be in any of the bordering countries around Germany.”

One trip Nahmias and his host family was to Italy during Christmas.  They stayed with his host mother’s family, who are Italian.

“There were ten of us – half of us spoke Italian, about half of us could speak English and about half of us could speak German,” Nahmias said.  “But only about two people could do all three.  It was a mix of culture and language and it was an amazing time with my host family….that dynamic was very different from anything I’ve experienced.”

Wallis is also excited to enter a new culture and family.  “It would be really cool to be a part of a different family because my family is really small,” Wallis said.

Wallis will be taking her Coca-Cola bag to Spain to carry a piece of Atlanta with her wherever she goes. Photos by Kheyal Roy-Meighoo

Wallis is excited for her trip, but she is a little concerned about the language barrier.  “Of course I’m nervous about how the language stuff is going to go,” Wallis said.  

Nevertheless, she encourages others to go on foreign exchanges.  

“If you’re up for it in high school, go for it,”  Wallis said.

Nahmias also encourages other high school students to live in another country, but also has a word of warning about the trip.

“[It’s] not for everyone…It’s the hardest and best choice and experience you’ll have.  It’s extremely difficult…but it’s also the most life changing experience,” Nahmias said.

To contact the writer, email 19kheyalroy-meighoo@csdecatur.net.