Meet Sophie Leitner, Exchange Student from Austria
Dawn Bille , Veritas Staff
Can you imagine going to a different school your junior year of high school? In a different town? In a different state? Even in a different country? Sophie Leitner, an outgoing 16 year old from Waldneukirchen, Austria is currently doing just that.
In Austria, Sophie lives in a very small town with a population of 2,000 people. In a town that small, there is no school to attend, so she had to attend school in a different town nearby that only had 60 students enrolled. The largest class size was about 33 people but could be as small as 10 people in each class. You can imagine how overwhelming it must be coming to a school with roughly 700 students attending.
Along with the difference in size of Waldneukirchen, many other things differ compared to Rockland High School. For instance, Sophie had to take 12-15 subjects each school year in her hometown. Each day Sophie would have a new schedule that she would repeat the following week. For five days a week she would go to school from 8 in the morning until whenever her classes ended later that evening, which would vary day to day. Sometimes she would get out of school at 5:30 that night.
Although most students would hate a 9½ hour day of school, kids in Waldneukirchen are allowed to leave school grounds to get lunch. In fact, there is a snack stand outside of their school where they can get a better quality meal than the cafeteria inside the school. During the day, students are allowed a snack break for 20 minutes.
Although quite different from her Austrian school, Sophie likes RHS. “Rockland’s cool,” she said. So far at RHS, Sophie has participated in cross country this fall season, and she plays the clarinet for the RHS band. Cross country is a new hobby for her. But when she was asked if she has been successful so far this season, she simply stated, “I’m usually the last one in but I’ve improved since I started.”
At the first home football game on September 14, Sophie experienced her first big event at RHS. Not only was she watching her first American high school football game, but she experienced the action first hand as a member of the band. Excitedly, she said “I really liked it.”
She also expressed her surprise at seeing that many people all together in one place. She compared our Friday night football games to her town’s Sunday get-togethers. She explained that people from her entire town get together to eat, dance, and chat about their weeks, which sums up our Friday night games, except we watch football instead of dancing. T
hrough the American Field Services, commonly known as AFS, RHS’ very own 11th grader Sydney Bissonnette, is housing Sophie. The Bissonnettes are now housing their third foreign exchange student. At the age of 17, Sydney’s mom was a foreign exchange student in Turkey. The AFS connection is working well and Sydney says about Sophie’s outgoing attitude, “She’s awesome.”