Austrian native enjoys year spent in Valley and at SAHS
By HANNAH JOHNSON – Stillwater Gazette
Nathalie Steinhart has one complaint about Minnesota – this last winter was too warm.
Other than the warm winter and lack of mountains, Steinhart has enjoyed her stay in the St. Croix Valley. She is one of several foreign exchange students who have been attending the Stillwater Area High School this year.
Steinhart is from Krakaudorf, Austria, a small village of about 700 people deep in the mountains about three hours from Vienna. Steinhart attends a school of 400 students in Austria. She said she’s enjoyed living in Stillwater, but it was a little intimidating to attend SAHS, which has more than 2,000 students.
The Gazette caught up with Steinhart before school ends and she travels across the U.S. with her family before returning to Austria in August.
Gazette: Why did you decide to study abroad in the U.S.?
Steinhart: I wanted to learn something different and I just wanted to see how it is somewhere else and see how teen-agers live and how school is. I chose the U.S. because I always see it in movies and because it just looks really awesome in movies. I mean, this is like a movie for me, except that, well, I don’t know some high schools in movies have open campus, but Stillwater doesn’t. It’s nice here, but at first I was a little scared. There are so many people and my school in Austria has 400 people and here it’s like 2,500, or something like that. It’s huge.
Gazette: Did you choose to stay in Minnesota?
Steinhart: I chose to come to the U.S., but they choose where you go. They sent me here and I was like, ‘OK, Minnesota, I’ve never heard of it.’ It’s fun and I really like it. It’s different. … One of the things I love about Minnesota is the pick-up trucks, because I maybe saw two pick up trucks in my life before I came here. I mean we could use them but it takes up so much gas to get up the mountains. … People complain here about the price of a gallon (of gas) here, but in Austria you pay almost $11 for a gallon. So I always tell people not to complain.
Gazette: What are the biggest differences going to school in the U.S. compared to Austria?
Steinhart: The biggest difference is you’re not allowed to choose your classes. You just have to take their classes. The teachers also go to the classrooms, so there’s one class and the teachers come and go, which is kind of nice. … It’s different here. Like if you need to go to the bathroom you need a hall pass, but in Austria if you have to go (to the bathroom) you just go. … We also don’t have sports after school; we don’t have any sports. I can’t imagine that anymore. Here I was in cheerleading, Alpine skiing and lacrosse.
Gazette: What have you missed most from home?
Steinhart: Mountains. And I just feel like the air is fresher, nicer. Our little village is like one of the places with the best air in Europe, or something like that, something weird.
Gazette: What will be your best memory from living in Stillwater?
Steinhart: One of my favorite things was prom because it was just so different and fun. In Austria you don’t have dates. I mean you don’t have to have a date here, but I did, which was nice. And you don’t buy corsages. Here you’re not allowed to have alcohol, but in Austria since the drinking law is 16 years old they have a bar on top or a separate room to get alcohol. … And the girls all have same color dress. They have to be exactly the same color, so we choose a color and then go to a place and they make the dress for you. No short dresses either, so they have to be the same color and floor-long.