DIXFIELD — Rachela Rosenhain, a 15-year-old exchange student from Berlin, Germany, said her wish to become an exchange student stemmed from traveling to the U.S. with her family.

“I really liked traveling since I’ve been a little kid and I like the United States,” Rachela said Monday at Dirigo High School where she is a junior.

With her family, she visited an uncle in Montana and a great-uncle in Nebraska.

“I just realized how much I loved the country so I returned and spent six weeks in the summer in Montana, and then I decided I wanted to be an exchange student,” she said.

Rachela is staying with host family Charles and Kate Tuell of Canton and their six children, who are all younger than her. At home in Germany, she lives with her parents and her 10-year-old brother.

Some major differences between her hometown of Berlin and rural Maine towns are that Berlin is “really bigger, (with) more people and more traffic,” she said. Something she enjoys more in her hometown is being able to do more things on her own by taking the subway or other city transportation. 

“Here, I need to take a car everywhere and since I can’t drive, my friends and my family have to take me,” she said.

Rachela said her classes in Germany “are way harder” and that she learns a lot at school, but at Dirigo she has a lot more homework and the teachers “also look after the students and are kind of like friends with them; it’s very different.”

“Today I didn’t have a good start of the day and I just went to my French teacher and she gave me a cup of tea and comforted me, so that’s very nice,” she said.

Asked what surprised her most about being an exchange student in Maine, she says she was “surprised by how different the people act here. In Germany, people are like keeping themselves to themselves (and are) not open to other people. Maybe it’s just because of Berlin, like, it’s a big city, but people here are way more open and friendly. I just feel like people here are more open-minded and nice,” she said.

Rachela played soccer in the fall and is on the cheerleading squad this winter. She enjoyed both sports but finds that between practices and all of her homework, she is quite busy.

One class that she especially likes at Dirigo is forensics because they don’t have the class in Germany and “it’s a new experience.” She’s also found that her French teacher and class have renewed her love of the language, while she didn’t like her French class in Germany because it was boring, she said.

Rachela speaks four languages: German, English, Polish (her mother is from Poland) and French. Of the four languages, she is fluent in German and English, but in Polish and French she can pass as fluent, she said.

At home in Germany, she spends her free time doing schoolwork, playing chess, playing the piano and meeting her friends. She learned to play chess when she was 6 or 7 and her father gave her a DVD to learn how to play. She belongs to a chess club, of which she has been a member for 10 years.

After high school, Rachela plans to study law. “My dream would be to become a diplomat, but it’s a rare chance, so I just want to study a lot,” she said.

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Rachela Rosenhain, 15, of Berlin, Germany, is an exchange student at Dirigo High School. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)