HARTINGTON — Sarah Landbeck, from Germany, watched her first Super Bowl football game in earlier this month.
She was not impressed.
Before coming to Nebraska as a foreign exchange student, she had never heard of the Super Bowl or even the Big Red Husker football team.
“Football is a funny game,” said Landbeck. “The players can hit each other, jump on each other – and it is all legal.”
The sports in the United States are different than the ones in her homeland of Germany. Landbeck said she has never seen football, basketball or baseball games on TV in Germany.
“We have soccer, tennis, golf and horseback riding,” said Landbeck.
Landbeck said polo is a favorite sport of hers. She has trained polo ponies and plays polo herself.
Her description of the sport is to the point.
“A horse is under you, there is a stick in your hand and you hit the ball,” Landbeck explained.
Her host family, Todd and Jean Wiebelhaus, made arrangements to have a horse available during the time Landbeck is living with them.
“I ride Smoky when the weather is okay,” said Landbeck. “It is fun here.”
Landbeck said she has noticed several differences between Germany and the U.S. since arriving here last August.
Landbeck has been attending Hartington Public School where she is a senior.
In Germany, she would have been in her eleventh year in school.
When she returns she will have two more years of school to finish before she heads to college to study biology.
Sports are not part of the school curriculum in Germany, like they are here in Nebraska.
Landbeck said there are three types of schools in Germany — a lower level, normal school and the higher level, which is where Landbeck attends.
Elementary school is only for four years – a student’s final report card has to be really good to get into the higher level, according to Landbeck.
She said school here seems more comparable to the normal school in Germany.
There is more studying at her school back in Hamburg and the tests are harder.
“There are no multiple choice answers on our tests — all of the questions are answered by essay,” said Landbeck. “You have to think about things more when you are studying.”
Landbeck, who is proficient in the English language, said she has studied English in Germany three times a week since she was in the fifth grade.
Landbeck was surprised to find so much religion here in Nebraska.
“There is a lot more religion here,” said Landbeck. “I had never been to church in my whole life.”
Christmas and Easter are both holidays in Germany but they are not necessarily recognized as religious holidays.
“Christmas is more about presents. It is not as religious as here,” said Landbeck. “Many people don’t even know why we celebrate Easter. It is when kids search for chocolate eggs.”
Landbeck said her family did not celebrate Christmas while she was away from home this last year.
They only do it for me, she said.
While in Nebraska, Landbeck was able to celebrate her first ‘white Christmas’.
Landbeck is now attending church with her host family while experiencing life in Nebraska.
Landbeck will take in some sightseeing in a large U.S. city before heading back home next summer.
She will be traveling with approximately 25 other exchange students from Coleridge, Wausa and the surrounding area and eventually meet up with another 40 students before arriving in Chicago.
Landbeck’s home is in Hamburg, which is a city with a population close to two million in the northern part of Germany.
Landbeck said she does miss living in a big city.
“Here, everything is so far away,” Landbeck said. “Back home I can walk two minutes and I am at a bus station which can take me anywhere. A 10-minute walk takes me to my school and in five minutes I can be at the mall.”
Landbeck said she rides her bike every day when she is back home in Hamburg.
“Our bikes are our cars,” said Landbeck who is 17 years old. “You cannot get a driver’s license until you are 18 in Germany and they cost a lot of money.”