German Exchange Student Reminisces About her Time in Tyrone

German exchange student Lara Pilgram enjoyed her year in Tyrone

Imagine being 16 years old, traveling around the world to a country that you’ve never been, moving in with people you’ve never met before, and going to a school where no one speaks your native language.  Now imagine that you are going to stay there for almost a year.

That’s exactly what Rotary Exchange student Lara Pilgram did last school year when she moved from her native Pfungstadt, Germany to Tyrone for the 2017-2018 school year.

While many young people would probably be terrified just thinking of doing that, for Lara, it was just another opportunity for adventure.

In Germany, everybody is talking about the USA and like everybody wants to go. I wanted to go to learn English and to make new friends”

— Lara Pilgram

No stranger to travel, Pilgram’s parents are both from different countries. Her mom is from Venice, Italy and her dad is from Germany.

Pilgram grew up traveling often to her grandparents home in Italy, so she was already very familiar with visiting places with a different culture and language from her own.

But that doesn’t mean that Pilgram wasn’t nervous about coming to America.

In fact, spending an entire year in another country was not even her idea. It was her twin sister, Lisa, who convinced Pilgram to go on an exchange year.

“I just sent an email and they said yeah, okay, you can go and I was like ‘okay!’” said Pilgram.

Pilgram got to choose three countries that she would be willing to go and the Rotary program assigned her to one of them. While she would have been willing to go to any of the three countries, Pilgram has always wanted to come to the United States and was happy to learn that she was being sent to Tyrone.

“In Germany, everybody is talking about the USA and like everybody wants to go. I wanted to go to learn English and to make new friends,” said Pilgram.

At first, it was difficult for her to be so far away from home because she didn’t fully know the language and she didn’t like being away from her family.

“I think sometimes it was hard not to have a sister but I love my house parents, so that made everything better,” said Pilgram.

Pilgram fought homesickness by staying busy and getting involved in lots of school activities. She played on the varsity tennis team and spent as much time as she could meeting people and hanging out with her new friends.

“She was very nice and got along with everyone,” said her tennis coach Randy Irvin.

Some of Pilgram’s favorite memories of her time in Tyrone are the friendships she made on the tennis team and the school dances like Snowball and Prom.

One thing that stood out to Pilgram is the amount of enthusiasm and pride that Tyrone students have for their school and community.

“In Germany, we don’t have the school spirit that like you do. We just go to school and that’s it. We don’t have t-shirts or something that says the name of our town or school, so I think that’s cute,” said Pilgram.

During her stay, Pilgram became close with many people, including some that she is sure will remain lifelong friends.

“I was close with Lindsey [Walk], Jessica [Chronister], Anastasia [Gaida] and like all of those people with Maddie [Diebold] and Paige [Kephart]. I was also close with a few ninth graders. If I missed anybody, I’m sorry,” said Pilgram.

I miss the kids, I mean it was a great experience for me, and I miss all of the people”

— Lara Pilgram

“One of my favorite memories with Lara was going to Winter Jam with her and my family,” said junior Anastasia Gaida, “Also, her host parents used to take us out to eat at Red Lobster. I loved every second with Lara because she became my best friend in such a short time.”

Pilgram is now back home in Germany,  hanging out with her friends, going to school and focusing on her studies.

When she graduates high school, she plans to go to college and eventually become a doctor.

According to Pilgram, she misses the United States and Tyrone, a hopes to come back and visit as soon as she can.

“I miss the kids, I mean it was a great experience for me, and I miss all of the people,” said Pilgram.

For many of the students who got to know her, that feeling is very mutual.

“I would love to see Lara again. I consider her to be my un-biological sister. I hope she comes back for Snowball or homecoming next year. If not, I will figure out a way to go to Germany and visit her,” said Jessica Chronister.