The cornfields of Jackson County were much different than the bright city lights of Berlin, Germany.
But Marwin Launert said he enjoyed his view as he rode into Brownstown to spend the first half of the school year as a foreign exchange student here.
Launert, 16, departed back to Germany earlier this week after his time as a sophomore at Brownstown Central High School while living with his host parents James and Martha Lasher.
Launert said when he first arrived in August, he saw the cornfields that have since been harvested, and he will remember them as he looks back on his time here.
“It was a lot of countryside, and I really liked it,” he said. “I remember the huge fields and thinking it was a neat place.”
Launert said he was nervous before meeting his host family, but those nerves went away when he was able to get to know them prior to the trip through the internet.
“We exchanged email, and we video chatted through Skype,” he said.
He said he has really gotten to know them since, and the family has even been on a trip to Florida.
The Lashers had discussed hosting a foreign exchange student after raising four daughters.
“We raised four girls, and the youngest was in college, and the house seemed really empty,” Martha said. “We really weren’t ready for the empty nest, so we thought it might be time to give it a try.”
It didn’t take long for Launert to fit in, as he is included in the family’s routine of playing board and card games.
“We enjoy playing card games and board games, and he has been fun to play with,” she said. “Yahtzee is his game. He kills us every time.”
The family also has taught him a great deal about horses, he said. The Lashers own horses, and Launert has helped care for them, something he said is interesting work he had not experienced before.
They also have enjoyed hiking together.
In fact, the family said Launert is pretty much up for anything they suggest to him.
“He has been very open to trying all our different activities and joining in on our family time when our girls come to visit,” Martha said.
James said the house seems different after being outnumbered all of these years.
“It has been a learning experience to having a teenage boy in the house after only having girls,” he said.
Martha is of German heritage, and she and Launert spend time discussing her family history. She also has tried to make him German dishes her mother and grandmother made.
“Apparently, my sauerbraten was OK,” she said.
Life in Germany is not quite the same as in America, but Launert said he and his friends in Germany do similar things average teenage students do.
“We go to the cinema, hang out and a number of things,” he said.
A more focused hobby for Launert is boxing, for which he trains in the gym a lot.
At first, Launert said he struggled with his English, but he quickly adjusted and didn’t have problems.
“It didn’t last long, and I caught on quick,” he said.
School in Germany is much different for Launert. At Brownstown, he has a more consistent schedule, whereas in Germany, the schedule is not always the same every day.
“We have different classes each day, and they’re not always the same like it is here,” he said, adding the length of the school day also differs. “Some days are shorter, and other days are longer, and it’s just really not a set day.”
It wasn’t hard for him to make friends, either, he said. That was due in part to students’ curiosity about life in Germany, he said.
“It was really easy because a lot of people would come up to me and ask me questions,” he said.
Many have asked about when he will get his driver’s license, what his hobbies are, life in Germany and if he plays sports.
So what has he enjoyed the most about going to school in Brownstown?
“Having the opportunity to get work and studying done during study hall,” he said with a laugh. “I like having time to prepare for a test.”
Launert said he will miss visiting with his host family when he returns to Germany after Christmas.
“I will miss their personalities and spending time with them and just talking with them,” he said.
He also will miss using the English language.
“When I go back, I will not be using it as much,” he said.
Now that Launert is gone, the Lasher family is adjusting to absence of noise.
“The house will be very quiet again and lonely,” Martha said. “We have enjoyed having him in our house and sharing our lives with him.”
James agreed and said it was a great opportunity to share experiences from different countries.
“It has been a great time having Marwin in the house and learning about Germany,” he said. “I’m glad Marwin was able to see America.”