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Friends bid farewell to HNHS exchange student

Huntington North High School (HNHS) exchange student Theo Wachs and friend Lauren Templeton sign a memory canvas at his good-bye party.
Huntington North High School (HNHS) exchange student Theo Wachs and friend Lauren Templeton sign a memory canvas at his good-bye party. Photo by Lyla Spath

Approximately 50 friends and neighbors gathered to say good-bye to Huntington North High School (HNHS) exchange student Theo Wachs May 21.
Wachs, age 17, is from Koenigstein, Germany, near Frankfurt.

“I came to study in the U. S. to help improve my English,” Wachs said.

Along with learning more English, Wachs had the opportunity to experience American culture first-hand. He noted that some of the major differences between life in Koenigstein and life in Huntington are diet and use of public transit.

“In Germany, I’m not old enough to drive, so I relied on public transportation,” Wachs said.

He noted that, even in small communities, public transit is much more widely available in Germany than in the U.S.

Wachs said that the German diet includes more fruits and vegetables and less fast food.

However, when asked what American food item he will miss in Germany, the teen was quick to respond “bacon cheeseburgers.”

During his time in the U.S., Wachs had the opportunity to visit several states, including Illinois, Florida and Colorado, among others.

While attending HNHS, Wachs stayed at the home of his host family, Bobby Blair. Blair, a retired U. S. Army Green Beret, spent more than five years stationed in Germany.

“Hosting Theo gave me the opportunity to practice my German,” said Blair.

This was Blair’s first experience hosting an exchange student.  

Host families do not receive monetary compensation, but they reap the rewards of cultural exchange—and making a new friend from another country.

“I’ll miss Theo’s quick wit and sense of humor,” Blair said.

Back in Germany, Wachs will return to school to finish abitur, which goes through 11th grade. Then he will attend university.

In future, Wachs wants to become a diplomat.

Wachs’ stay in Huntington was coordinated by Northwest Services, which places exchange students in the area.

HNHS had 10 exchange students for the 2021 – 2022 school year, according to Connie Baumgardner of Northwest Services. In addition to Germany, those students were from Belgium, Brazil, Italy and Spain.