Auburn teens celebrate international friendship - Catholic Courier

Auburn teens celebrate international friendship

AUBURN — Karin Schmidt, 17, spent less than a year in the United States, but she made the most of her time here.
 

An exchange student, Karin arrived in Auburn near the end of August 2003 and will leave to go back to her home in Germany on July 6. While she was in Auburn, Karin immersed herself in her new school, Tyburn Academy; her new church, Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn; and her new community, Auburn.
 

Karin also made a lot of close friends during her stay in the Finger Lakes area, as evidenced by the dozen teenagers who gathered at Sacred Heart June 11 for a slumber party in Karin’s honor.
 

The members of Sacred Heart’s youth group decided to throw a combination goodbye party and birthday party for fellow member Karin, who turned 17 on June 11. The teens arrived at the parish hall at 5 p.m. that evening to decorate the youth room with balloons and streamers before Karin arrived at 6.
 

The youth-group members also had another surprise for Karin up their short sleeves — they had ordered special pink T-shirts for the occasion. The pink shirts feature the words “Karin’s 17th Birthday Slumber Party” above outlines of the United States and Germany on the front, with the names of all the youth-group members listed on the back.
 

“We’re going to miss her,” said Anna Comitz, youth minister. “The kids in the youth group wanted to have (the party), and Karin was really up for it. She was extremely excited about it. It was the kids’ idea, and the kids’ idea to get the shirts, and they pretty much did it themselves. They’re great kids.”
 

The teens spent the evening watching movies and eating pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers. Karin also had the opportunity to make her very first s’more when the youth group ventured outside after dark for a bonfire.
 

The gooey campfire treat is just one of the many things Karin had to get used to while living in the United States. Karin is an only child and lives with her mother when she’s at home, but since she’s been in Auburn, she’s stayed with Sacred Heart parishioners Patrick and Kathie Collier, who have three children. Adjusting to life in a bigger family was no problem, Karin said.
 

She’s even become so close to 13-year-old Katie Collier that although they are not biologically related, they feel like sisters and have begun calling each other “soul sisters.”
 

Karin is also in awe at the size of the United States. She is well-traveled for her 17 years, and has been to Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. Europeans tend to travel to other countries more than Americans, she said, partly because there is less physical distance between the nations.
 

“The United States is so big,” Karin said. “You drive a long time and you’re still in it.”
 

Karin’s junior class at Tyburn Academy consisted of five students, which was an adjustment for her, considering there were 120 students in her grade at her school in Germany.
 

Not everything was an adjustment for Karin, however. Auburn’s weather mirrors that of her hometown of Verl, Germany, which also has four seasons and a similar temperature during the winter months, although “we don’t get that much snow,” she said.
 

At the urging of her host parents, Karin joined Sacred Heart’s youth group at the beginning of 2004. The Colliers’ two sons, Andrew and Patrick, had belonged to the youth group when they were in high school, so they thought Karin would enjoy it too.
 

“I really love it,” Karin said of the youth group.
Karin had never joined the youth group at St. Judas Thadaus — her parish in Germany — but she’s considering joining it when she returns home, thanks to her experiences at Sacred Heart. She’s participated in a lot of activities through the youth group, including a ski trip to Vermont, but her favorite aspect of the group is the “really cool friends” she’s made since she joined.
 

Karin and the rest of the youth-group members plan on keeping in touch even after she’s moved back to Germany. During the slumber party, the teens presented Karin with a journal filled with their favorite shared memories, and the teens planned on adding their contact information to the journal before Karin left.
 

“I’m really looking forward and excited to go home, but I’m sad to leave my new friends,” Karin said.

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