International student shares background, experiences

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In 1986, the Rotary Club of North DeKalb hosted a young German student through the Georgia Student Rotary Program. That same year, a Polish girl was sponsored through the Blakely and Cuthbert Rotary.

“Those two met in Georgia, and they went back together to Europe. In 1994, they married, and in 1996 they became my parents,” said 18-year-old Norwegian exchange student Helena Krumbaucher at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting. “You guys are basically responsible for my existence. If it weren’t for the Georgia Student Rotary Program, I would not be here.”

Krumbaucher is being hosted by the family of Rotarian Melinda Taylor for the year as she studies at a U.S. school.

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Fresh out of a German international high school in Oslo, Norway, with an interest in engineering, Krumbaucher thought the program would be a good chance to explore different fields and subjects while in school.

She lived in Germany until she was 11, when her family moved to Norway, and she credits her parents’ mixed heritage as a reason for her love of traveling.

“Both of my parents like to travel, and they’ve always encouraged me to go to conferences and be open to new cultures and get those experiences,” Krumbaucher said.

She said as a child, her parents would take her and her siblings to museums and teach them about different countries.

“The older I got, the more I was able to appreciate that,” she said.

Krumbaucher is not completely new to the U.S. as she took part in an international conference in New York at age 16 and went on a three-week road trip with her parents when she was 14.

“People would tell me, ‘You may have been to America, but you haven’t been to the South,’” she said of the new experiences she’s had in Georgia.

Through the conference in New York, she became friends with a girl from India and visited her school.

“In the beginning it all seemed very different, but after being there for a week, I realized we have the same kids wherever you go,” Krumbaucher said. “You have the same kind of kids in high school all over the world. It’s great.”

Krumbaucher said that she heard stories about the South before visiting and that those stories were exaggerated. She learned English as a child and was exposed to U.S. customs and foods and candies through a camp at her school. Thanks to the camp, she said, she knows what snacks to pick out.

One of the things she worried about was adjusting to using an air conditioner and experiencing a temperature change, but she said it wasn’t bad like she expected.

She is, however, still getting used to the Southern U.S. accent.