For the past two years, Tower Hill has partnered with ASSIST, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that matches academically talented, multilingual international students with American independent secondary schools. During a one-year school stay, an ASSIST scholar-leader serves as a cultural ambassador actively participating in classes and extracurricular activities. Since 1969, 5,050 student scholar-leaders from 52 nations, many underrepresented in independent school populations, have been matched with ASSIST-affiliated schools. This growing, global network connects top scholars with elite American schools and with one another.
This year we are fortunate to have Amelie Goedeke from Hamburg, Germany in Grade 10 and Bence Tanko-Bartalis from Budapest, Hungary in Grade 11, both of whom are hosted by Tower Hill families. Amelie and Bence have immersed themselves into life at Tower Hill, and I would like to share some of their thoughts about their experience here.
What made you decide to spend a year abroad?
Amelie: I wanted to do an exchange in the U.S. because I wanted to improve my English. I was also always interested in the "typical high school life” and the high school sports here. On an exchange fair in Germany, I heard about the exchange program ASSIST. I luckily got accepted for the program and then placed here at THS.
Bence: I was interested in the culture and wanted to learn the language. I also wanted to see what the American dream looks like. I heard about the different education system and was really excited to try it out. It has been one of the greatest challenges in my life.
What has been your favorite part of the THS experience?
Amelie: I really enjoyed being part of the volleyball, basketball and soccer teams! I tried two completely new sports (volleyball and basketball), and through the sport team it was easier to make new friends. I also really enjoyed traveling with my host family and on field trips with THS to see many new and interesting places. I am very thankful that I got to visit places like New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Puerto Rico and Philly for the first time in my life.
Bence: I would absolutely say sports. It is just the most fun part of the day. Playing on a Friday night game is amazing, even if I am just a kicker. The team is amazing, and it is the easiest to build friendships through sports; at least it works for me the best.
What advice would you give future exchange students?
Amelie: Not to stress too much about schoolwork at the beginning because it will get a lot easier when you get into the second semester and adjust to the language. And also don’t try to compare everything to your home! Many things are different here and some things may be better here and some things may be better at home. Just accept the cultural differences and try to learn from them!
Bence: In the beginning, give yourself a break. I come from one of the best high schools in Hungary and set really high standards for myself. To fit into an already well-developed community is always harder than to fit into a newly created one.
What lessons will you take back home next year?
Amelie: I learned many things in my exchange year. I experienced that it is important to not have extremely high standards or expectations on yourself, especially at the beginning when you get used to a new environment in every situation in life, it needs time to adjust. An exchange year is like a valley; there are highs and lows, sometimes it rains and you face many challenges but you have to stand up, keep walking and learn from them, but then there are also many moments when the sun shines really bright and you experience great things, meet awesome people and get to know so many new things. Overall I learned from every challenging and rainy moment and to embrace in every particle from the sunshine.
Bence: We were reading Hamlet in my English class, and I asked myself many questions that I have never thought before. For some of these, I still haven't found my answer. I realized how a good question can be more important than a good answer.
Amelie is interested in pursuing languages, politics, history and journalism, and Bence plans on studying mechanical or electronic engineering or maybe robotics when he returns home. Many thanks to Bence and Amelie for choosing Tower Hill for their exchange experience and for their many contributions to our community! An additional thanks to our Tower Hill host families who have welcomed them with open arms.
—Megan Cover, Head of Upper School