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Exchange Students Share Culture, Experiences

Marko Pavlovski & Charlotte NikelMars Area High School’s MISA/AFS (Mars International Student Association/American Field Service) Chapter has welcomed two exchange students for the 2023-2024 School Year.

Exchange students include senior Charlotte Nikel is from the village of Erdeborn in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. (Nikel received a scholarship from Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, known in Germany as the Parlamentarisches Patenschafts-Programm.) Senior Marko Pavlovski is from the small town of Skopje, North Macedonia.

The pair took a few moments to share their backgrounds and experiences so far:

What is your hometown like? 

Charlotte: Germany is a country with diverse landscapes. There are picturesque cities, green meadows and forests, high mountains and impressive castles, seas (Baltic Sea and North Sea). But the area, I come from, is very similar to the area here.
Marko: My hometown is the capital town of my county, North Macedonia, and it is called Skopje. It’s a very small, yet a beautiful town, with a very rich history. There’s the river Vardar flowing through the city and also, we have the Stone Bridge, a very important monument in Skopje, together with the Fortress of Skopje, which overlooks the river.

Why do you want to study in the U.S.? 

Charlotte: It has always been my dream to go to a high school and experience the high school spirit.
Marko: In the U.S. when it comes to school, I want to study something related to music or architecture.

What is one part of American culture that you are excited to experience? 

Charlotte: Actually, everything I can take with me! Homecoming, Halloween, Thanksgiving, celebrate Christmas differently, Prom, Graduation...
Marko: I am very excited to meet a lot of people, and generally experience the roots of the American culture.

What is one difference between education in your country and education in America? 

Charlotte: In Germany, many things are different from the U.S. We go to kindergarten when we are 1 year old until we are 5-6. After that comes, a four-year stay in elementary school; and, at the end of the 4 years, it is decided what kind of school you will go to for fifth grade. There is secondary school and high school. In secondary school, you graduate after ninth or 10th grade and then go to a vocational school. In a “Gymnasium,” you do your Abitur (a certification that a student has successfully completed the German college preparatory educational program) in the 12th grade, similar to ours, and then you can study at a university. Another difference is here, we don’t have (the) possibility to design our schedule ourselves. We have different subjects every day — German, English, Math, Geography, History, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Art and Sports are the typical subjects that everyone has to take.
Marko: Here schools are much more organized and you can’t get out of the school during breaks. Teachers are very friendly, nice and respectful towards students.

How has your experience at Mars Area High School been so far? 

Charlotte: I have a very positive impression of the school so far! My teachers are all very nice and understanding and, with the students, I have not yet had a negative encounter.
Marko: So far, Mars High has been amazing. The people are great, and everyone is very open to helping people when you ask them.

Are you involved in any activities or sports? 

Charlotte: Not yet, but I'm interested in joining the Best Buddies Club and the MISA/AFS Club.
Marko: So far, I am not; but, I am planning on joining some things in the future.

What do you do outside of school? 

Charlotte: In Germany, I have supported many social projects and hope to continue that here! I also want to help my host mom with her Girls Scout groups.
Marko: Outside of school, I love hanging out with my friends and host family. I love traveling, so I do that too. I love listening to music and recently I started piano classes, and I really find that exciting.

What is the best thing about being an exchange student?  

Charlotte: You will have a unique experience that only you can have, because no other year abroad is the same! Everything you experience during the year, whether positive or negative, it will shape your whole life.
Marko: The best part about being an exchange student, beside the fact that you meet a lot of people and experience new cultures, is that you grow as a person. You see your flaws and try to improve them during that year. There is a quote exchange students love to say — “It’s not a year of your life; but, It’s a life in a year.”

In addition to hosting exchange students from other countries, Mars Area High School’s MISA/AFS Chapter offers scholarships to eligible students who are interested in traveling abroad. Numerous Mars Area High School students have participated in exchange programs in the chapter’s more than 50-year history.

Through study abroad programs, students can experience the diversity of culture and lifestyles that they might not otherwise learn about in a textbook.  Students can also enhance their second language skills, add to their college applications, and experience cultures and people who they would otherwise not have a chance to meet.

Many exchange students develop lifelong connections with their host families maintain with their exchange students and vice versa. Any families, who are interested in hosting an exchange student, are encouraged to attend the chapter’s monthly meetings, which are typically held at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month during the school year.

Throughout the school year, chapter members participate in a variety of events. Each spring, the chapter welcomes foreign exchange students from

Mars Area and surrounding school districts to share information about their countries and cultures with students at Mars Area High School aa part of an International Days event. 

For more information or to get involved, visit