Melk Minutes


L-R: Phillip Wenner, Will Dardon, Lionel Wichman, Herr Sach, Luke Payne, and Lorine Moellentine

Marisa Gaetz

This year marks the 49 th anniversary of the exchange program between St. John’s Prep and the Stift Melk School in Austria. This year, five of our Prep students have travelled to Melk to live and study for the school year – Luke Payne, Will Dardon, Lionel Wichman, Phillip Wenner, and Lorine Moellentine. I interviewed Lorine to hear about her experience of the first few weeks in Melk.

Q: What cultural differences have you noticed so far?

A: “They all tend to dress very formally compared to what we do in America. They also tend to change clothes more frequently, depending on what they are doing throughout the day. Introductions are more formal, but also more personal. For example, I have been greeted by a kiss on both cheeks before.”

Q: How is school different?

A: “Once again, they seem to be more formal. Everybody stands up as the teacher walks in and then sits back down when they are told. I have also noticed that they have different ways of learning, and tend to do more independent studying. The schedule is also very different. My school day starts at 7:50AM and goes until 1:30PM. Classes are 50 minutes long, and there is at least five minutes between each class. After every two classes, we get a 15 minute break. My classes are different every day, and I have a total of about 14 classes. It was very confusing at first, and I accidentally missed a class, but we have an advisor who is very helpful who we can go to with any questions.”

Q: How has your experience been with learning the German language?

A: “The German I have been learning, known as High German, is spoken more in Northern Germany, and it has been very difficult to get used to the Austrian dialect. It’s not just the pronunciation that is different; there are even words that I have never heard of before. Many of my classmates like to try to speak English to me, but I have asked them to speak German because I want to learn, and they have been very nice about doing that. Most of them seem to be able to understand my German, but they can definitely tell I am an American. I went to a restaurant and all I said was “yes, please” in German to the waiter, and he knew immediately that I was an American.”

Q: Have the people, specifically your host family, been welcoming?

A: “They have been very welcoming. My host family had a big dinner that the whole family came to on the first day I was there. They understand that it’s hard for me to understand, but they made an effort to make me feel included.”

Q: What do you miss most about America and St. John’s Prep?

A: “I miss having a definite, daily schedule. I also miss knowing almost everyone. This is the first time since sixth grade that I have been to a new school and have had to make new friends. Of course, I also miss my family and friends back home. I miss my iPad. Homework is a lot harder to do without it, and I have a lot of textbooks to carry around.”

Q: How is the food?

A: “The food is delicious. We go out for lunch and dinner pretty frequently. Schnitzel seems to be the favorite for all of us Americans. Certain things about how they eat are very different. They eat their pizza with a fork and knife and put their silverware together to indicate that they are finished eating. They eat a lot of fresh foods and bake frequently. The pop also tastes a little different.”

Q: What are some of the most fun things you have done so far?

A: “One really fun thing was the Maturaball. It was similar to homecoming or prom, but even more formal. The boys and girls who are around graduating age had been preparing for a long time. Those girls wore white dresses and gloves, and those boys wore tuxedos with red bowties. This year’s theme was festivals around the world, so parts of it were decorated like festivals such as the Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day. Another fun thing was going to see castles. It is also nice for me that I live in the city of Melk because I can pretty much bike or walk anywhere in Melk and there is a train and bus station near me.”

Q: How has your overall experience been?

A: “It has been great, and I am really glad I chose to come. I hope everyone back home is doing well!”