German exchange student Hannah Fecher, 15, with her Suffolk host family, Michael and Gail Morefield. The Morefields are encouraging more families in Suffolk to host an overseas student.
German exchange student Hannah Fecher, 15, with her Suffolk host family, Michael and Gail Morefield. The Morefields are encouraging more families in Suffolk to host an overseas student.

Archived Story

Guten Tag, Suffolk

Published 11:13pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When Suffolk’s public schools are back in session next month, one particular 10th-grader at Nansemond River High School will be taking in a lot more than just a new school.

Exchange student Hannah Fecher, 15, arrived in Suffolk Saturday from Mainz, Germany, on the west bank of the Rhine in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

“I’m fascinated by America,” Hannah said Tuesday, from a sofa at the North Suffolk home of Michael and Gail Morefield, her hosts until next June.

The German said she also wanted to come to America to grow her character. “I think initially I wanted to become more mature and independent,” she said in admirable English, which she has studied since the fifth grade.

Hannah’s home city has a little more than 200,000 people. It was a Roman fort city in antiquity. It’s where Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press, revolutionizing the world.

In other words, it’s long way from Suffolk in more ways than one.

Gail Morefield said Fecher has been particularly vocal on Suffolk’s vast landscape and its friendly people.

“Everyone has their own house,” Hannah reflected Tuesday.

While she doesn’t know many of her own neighbors in Germany — “Half of them I have never met,” she said — Hannah has been struck by the neighborliness she has seen in Suffolk.

In fact, on her second afternoon here, a bunch of neighborhood kids eager to meet the new kid and show her around knocked on the Morefields’ door.

“Six kids showed up at the door and took her off to explore,” Gail Morefield said. “She was welcomed immediately by our neighborhood.”

“It’s just different,” Hannah concluded of her temporary new home. “I think it’s not better or worse, just different. A lot bigger.”

Like most people overseas, her knowledge of and attitude toward America has been shaped by its pop-culture exports. She cited “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” as shows that have influenced her regarding America.

The aspiring journalist is interested in American history and wants to learn more about it. To that end, her hosts are planning trips to Williamsburg, Philadelphia and Boston.

Hannah is maintaining a blog to update family and friends while here. Friends of hers are exchange students in Sweden and England.

The Morefields are encouraging other Suffolk families to host exchange students. “We thought it would be interesting and open our world, and we love children,” Michael Morefield said.

Gail Morefield said she was surprised to find during her research how many would-be exchange students all over the world are looking for American hosts.

“There are not enough families,” she said. “So many students don’t get the opportunity.”

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