CEDAR RAPIDS — Getting involved in high school activities is a great opportunity to make new friends, especially for foreign exchange students.
Xavier’s Nike Zillessen, a junior foreign exchange student from Germany, decided to get involved by going out for cross country and swimming. She made the decision even before she came to the United States.
“I knew I was going to do both of these sports to get to know more people,” Zillessen said.
Zillessen is a member of the Xavier girls’ cross country team and is on the swim team at Washington High School.
She enjoys the team aspect of cross country.
“I like that you never run alone,” Zillessen said. “You always have someone running next to you to talk to, which you cannot do while swimming.”
Assistant coach Bridget Lemker runs with the cross country girls, including Zillessen, and gets to see the team chemistry.
“She is very friendly and the girls enjoy having her on the team,” Lemker said. “She fits right in with the team and you would never know it is her first year running.”
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One thing that stands out to Zillessen about the American high school sports experience is the camaraderie of the two teams.
“I like how close all the people at cross country are and I like cheering each other on during swim meets,” Zillessen said.
While Zillessen likes being able to experience America and what it offers, it also is nice to go back to her roots.
“At swimming there is another German girl and it is nice to sometimes just talk in German again,” Zillessen said.
These sports have helped make Zillessen’s experiences in the United States different from her experience in Germany.
“It helped me to get to know more people and connect with them,” she said. “Also to experience the high school sports we do not have in Germany.”
Xavier will run in the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division meet Thursday in Iowa City.