Germany's Stephan Weissenborn is playing midfield for HHS soccer team
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
German national Stephan Weissenborn is 4,000 miles from his Berlin home, but he isn't homesick. He's having too much fun playing soccer at Hartselle High and enjoying America to be longing for his homeland.
"Here we practice nearly every day," Weissenborn said. "In Germany, we only practice two or three times a week. This is lots of fun, because I love to play soccer and I'm getting to play it all the time."
Weissenborn, who is a resident of Berlin and recently turned 17-year-old, is an exchange student in his junior year of school.
He came to America on Jan. 4 and will stay until his visa expires July 9. He is the first foreign exchange student to play a varsity sport while attending Hartselle High.
Having high school sports teams is not the norm in Germany, so Weissenborn played on club soccer teams. It's one of the things he especially likes about America.
"We really don't have school spirit in Germany like you do in America," Weissenborn said.
"We don't have high school sports. But here everyone identifies themselves with the school because you can play sports. It's great to have this school spirit."
Weissenborn played club soccer in Germany beginning at the age of seven. He played in a 15/16-year-old league in Berlin last year, before coming to the United States. He plans to resume club soccer upon his return home.
Some things are just like home for the German teenager. According to Weissenborn, going to movies, concerts or hanging out with friends are activities young people in both countries enjoy.
School has its differences for the visitor. In Germany, Weissenborn had a different number of subjects to study on different days of the week instead of the seven subject schedule each day at Hartselle.
One big difference he has noticed between the two countries is the style of play on the soccer field.
"In Germany the players are more concerned with technique," Weissenborn said. "But here in America the game is more physical.
"We have some football players on our soccer team and they are more physical than the players in Germany."
Weissenborn is a midfielder, whose primary responsibility is to control the ball and set up the Tiger forwards for scores, has recorded one assist in Hartselle's second game of the 2005 season.
The German teenager has seen another difference between the two country's cultures.
"Sports is more important to people in America than in Germany," Weissenborn said. "Some people play sports their whole lives here in America, but it's not so much the case in Germany."
Weissenborn said an older sister, who went to school in Canada for six months, inspired him to join the exchange student program.
He began learning English six years ago as a second language in hopes of one day visiting the United States.
"I'm very glad I am here. My older sister learned a lot from her experience in Canada," Weissenborn said.
"I always wanted to learn more about the people and being an exchange student is a great way to become more open-minded and tolerant of other cultures."
Weissenborn, who only has 16 weeks remaining to spend in the states, said he plans to return someday to Hartselle and renew the friendships he has made so far.
"I must come back and visit the people I have meet here," Weissenborn said.
"I will really miss this place when I leave. It's just so great being here."