At first glance, she seems a typical high school student: a member of the Leo Club and the French Club, swimming for the school team, a cast member in the theater department's production of "1984."
Alice Hodapp may be typical, but not of an American teenager. She is from Germany, and is spending this year in 11th grade at Mount Pleasant High School as part of the Youth for Understanding exchange program.
Alice is from Karlsruhe, in southwestern Germany, about 20 miles from the French border. She describes Karlsruhe as "not huge," but with plenty of stores and a bunch of schools.
It took Alice a while to decide to be part of an exchange program. She first learned such programs existed in eighth grade, and she thought it might be an interesting thing to do someday, maybe in college. But by ninth grade she was thinking she might be able to go abroad sooner.
She started doing research, ordering brochures and learning about different programs. She was very excited when she was accepted by Youth for Understanding to go to the United States for a year.
She said she wanted an English-speaking country so she could work on her language skills (her English is excellent), so she was thrilled to come to the United States. When she learned where she would live, Alice Googled "Mount Pleasant, N.C.," and was happy with what she saw.
She didn't want to go to a state like California or Florida, because those seemed like places where people vacationed. She wanted to be in a "real place where real people live and work." So North Carolina seemed perfect.
One of the biggest adjustments for Alice has been living in a car-dependent society. In her hometown, as in much of Europe, it's easy to walk, bike or use public transportation to go anywhere. But in Mount Pleasant, as in most of the United States, people rely on cars for their social life. So Alice was happy to make friends who can drive.
It sounds like Alice has not had any trouble making friends at Mount Pleasant High School. She loves participating in school activities, and said those opportunities are much more limited in Germany.
She likes being able to choose her classes. In Germany all the coursework is required, and the only choice students have is which language to study.
High school in America is much easier than in Germany, she said. She loves multiple-choice tests - she's amazed that teachers actually provide students with the correct answer - rather than the essays she would typically write for German tests.
Alice said she misses some things about home. Besides public transportation, she misses her friends and family but can keep in touch pretty well. She misses cheese; apparently the cheese selection is much greater in Germany. But what she loves most about America is pancakes for breakfast. So maybe one compensates for the other.
Alice is living with the Vollman family, who seem to make pancakes often. Next week I'll tell you more about them, their participation in Youth for Understanding, and how happy they are to have opened their home to an exchange student like Alice Hodapp.