Exchange Students Explore Piedmont

Kira Pan, Maya Huffaker, Staff Writer, Arts Editor

Lilly Burchardt (11):

Foreign exchange student Lilly Burchardt (Photo by Sage Gilbert)

Friday Night Lights at Witter: a Piedmont tradition. Students dressed head to toe in purple huddle in the bleachers as they cheer on their football team. While high school experiences like these are often taken for granted, foreign exchange student and junior Lilly Burchardt is appreciating every moment.

In August, Lilly flew from her hometown of Greifswald, Germany to stay in Piedmont as a foreign exchange student for the 2022-23 school year. Lilly said the transition has been smooth overall.

“I feel like the people are so nice [here],” Lilly said. “Sometimes, it was hard because friend groups here are really clique-y and exclusive because people have known each other for so long, but they all ended up being welcoming. I think it’s really good to have the opportunity to come here and meet new people.”

During her stay in Piedmont, Lilly is staying with junior Laurel Bentley and her family. She said that she is grateful to be staying with such welcoming people.

“It’s been fun hosting Lilly,” Bentley said. “This year is the busiest year for me, so it’s kind of been hard to make time to hang out with her, but it’s great when we do have time together.”

Lilly is not the first exchange student the Bentleys have hosted.

“My family had three other exchange students in the past when I was younger. I would definitely do it again,” Bentley said.

Lilly had been learning English prior to coming to Piedmont.

“I started learning English in second or third grade, and I have had [English class] every week in school since then. It definitely helps being around people now who are speaking English to learn the language,” she said.

School life here is more enjoyable. There’s more after school activities and you have better bonds with teachers and students.

— Lilly Burchardt, junior

Lilly finds American school life to be more laid back and welcoming than her experience in Germany.

“School life in Germany was really hard. Our teachers were very strict, and we had a lot of essays and tests. I had 18 classes a week last year,” Lilly said. “In comparison, school life here is more enjoyable. There’s more after school activities and you have better bonds with teachers and students. Sports are also fun here because you play with classmates.”

Lilly said she attributes the ease of her transition to Piedmont to her friends on the volleyball team, one of whom is junior Izzy Grimmer.

“Izzy was really nice when I first came, helping to introduce me to the [volleyball] coach and team,” Lilly said. “I started getting close to the team, and it helped me feel more comfortable here. When you don’t know anyone but have something to do everyday, you start meeting people.”

Lilly said that she followed in the footsteps of three of her family members (older brother Lennart Burchardt, older cousin Leo Burchardt, and dad Martin Burchardt), all of whom were exchange students in the Bay Area. The Burchardt family’s connection to Piedmont originated with the relationship between Martin Burchardt and the Davies brothers, Jon and Matt.

“Martin Burchardt was an exchange student in my family when I was a senior at Skyline High School in 1984,” PHS parent Jon Davies said.

Martin came to the U.S. through AFS Intercultural Programs, an international youth exchange organization, according to Jon.

“AFS is one of the older, more famous foreign exchange programs,” Jon said. “We didn’t have any idea who Martin was. It was just luck that we got him. It turned out that they made a very good match with our family. We developed a really great relationship between the families that when our kids grew up, we really wanted them to have a similar exchange experience.”

Piedmont is an amazing community with a lot to offer and a lot to gain from hosting students from different cultures.

— Matt Davies, PHS parent

Leo Burchardt was the next member of the Burchardt family to come to Piedmont. Leo stayed with Jon’s family and sons Paul and Will, for a semester during the 2017-2018 school year. Lennart (Lenny) Buchardt came four years later, and stayed for the entirety of the 2021-2022 school year. 

Matt Davies said that many people benefit from participating in the foreign exchange program.

“Piedmont is an amazing community with a lot to offer and a lot to gain from hosting students from different cultures,” Matt said. “I think these relationships that can be built when kids are young often lead to friendships that bridge into adulthood.”

Jon said he shares a similar perspective as Matt.

“At the end of the day, people are people, and with the foreign exchange experience, you could have deep and meaningful relationships across cultures,” Jon said. “[Martin’s] very much like my brother. When we travel to Europe, we have a place to stay and people to stay with. It’s like having a big extended family on the other side of the world.”


Togre Kraft (11):

Foreign exchange student Togre Kraft (Photo by Sage Gilbert)

Hundreds of costumes, an infinite number of deep fried treats, and never-ending lines of people. An afternoon at Disneyland is arguably one of the most American experiences there is. This is just one of many American experiences exchange student and junior Togre Kraft is soaking up in his year in the U.S.

In August of 2022, Kraft left his home near Hamburg, Germany, and departed for Piedmont, where he is staying for the duration of the 2022-23 school year. Kraft said he has acclimated well since arriving.

“I wasn’t homesick at all,” Kraft said. “[My family and I] talk every once in a while but not very much.”

Kraft said that Piedmont’s small community has made it easier for him to adjust to the transition.

“I don’t think [Piedmont] is that different [from his area in Germany]. Our school is pretty privileged and we’re a really small community. I know other foreign exchange students who are at schools with thousands of students,” Kraft said.

Kraft is participating on the volleyball team this year. Like Buchardt, Kraft said being on the team was the best method for him to make friends and meet new people. 

Senior and volleyball team captain Wilson Wong said he met Kraft through volleyball, and really wanted him as a teammate. 

“Eventually we started going to open gyms outside of Piedmont with other friends and I actually got to know him,” Wong said. “He’s a lot more well adjusted than I would have imagined. I ask him a lot about German culture.”

Wong said the two connected over their shared love for the German internet celebrity Jeremy Fragrance. 

I want to know another culture and experience how people on the other side of the world live.

— Togre Kraft, junior

During his year in Piedmont, Kraft is staying with sophomores Toby and Ella Fleischer. 

“It’s really cool to have people from other countries and he’s shown us a lot of new stuff,” Toby said.

Toby said that Kraft has a bunch of cool hobbies, including crafting and cooking. 

“He brings up a lot of cool recipes,” Toby said. “His mom actually sent a cookbook which we’ve made a few recipes [from].” 

Like Buchardt, Kraft has been learning English since a young age. He said his lessons started in grade three.  

“It’s common in other countries to learn [English] from a really young age,” he said. 

Kraft said his classes in America are different, but not necessarily easier or harder than those he took in Germany.  He said he hopes to improve his English skills and gain an international network of contacts during his time in America.

“I want to know another culture and experience how people on the other side of the world live,” he said. 

Toby said his family went to Disneyland to show Kraft the American experience. 

“We bring him to a lot of restaurants, we [went to] the movies, and Disneyland was a big fun thing because we went for a few days and just went on as many rides as we could,” Toby said. 

Kraft said he enjoyed other new experiences in addition to his special Disney day, such as Thanksgiving and holiday decorations.