Spring Valley is a very different place from what Anna Maute is used to. She's an exchange student from Germany. It's "totally not" what she's used to, but she said she's become fond of the little village.
"I really like it," Maute said.
So far, she said, she's had a lot of fun.
One place she's visited has been the Mall of America.
"It's too big," she said of the mall. "We were there the whole day. My feet really hurt. But It was fun."
- Read more about local foreign exchange students here.
Maute said she tried not to have any expectations when she got here, although a few things did surprise her. For one thing, the way everyone says "ya" or "yeah."
"I was taught in school that it's 'yes.' So when I first heard 'ya".."
She was surprised, because in German, "ja" (pronounced yah) means "yes."
"It's still new for me when I see ... people my age drive cars," Maute said. "Everybody has a car. I wasn't expecting that."
At home in Germany, Maute could drive, but only if a parent was in the car with her. Public transportation is more prevalent in Germany, so having to rely on cars and rides from others has made her less independent in that way.
On the other hand, she's been able to be more independent at school, in her choice of classes. She said she doesn't have as many choices for classes at home in Germany, where she attends a Gymnasium (an advanced secondary education school).
Here in Spring Valley, she can choose her classes. For example, she chose to take an art class this school year.
She said English class here in the U.S. is more challenging than learning the language at her home school.
"It's more realistic, the sounds, the pronunciation of it," she said.
Another challenge she's run into: German schools often teach British English, not American English. She ran into a few times when she knew only the British, and not the American, word for something.
"I didn't know what an eggplant was," Maute said.
She only knew the British word, Aubergine.
Another new experience for Maute was being on the volleyball team.
"I didn't play a sport at home, " she said.
The food here is a bit different too, she said.
"I eat a lot more than I would do at home, just because it's there," Maute said. "I'm always eating. At least, I feel like I'm always eating."
She's enjoyed all the foods she's tried.
"But your pickles are weird," she said. "They're not bad, but they're different."
American pretzels are different from German ones as well. She said she also misses German bread.
"I never thought I could miss such a basic thing," she said.
She made spätzle—a type of German noodle—for her host family.
"I think they liked it," Maute said.
Her host parents are Glen and Kathy Johanssen, with whom Maute said she gets along very well.
Maute said the best part of her trip so far has been meeting new people.
She'd tell anyone considering going on an exchange trip "that they should definitely do it."
"Because it's a great experience," Maute said, "and opportunity to get, like, a different kind of view on that place where you're going and on the place where you're from."