Finding Love in America

Photo by Ty Bunnell.
While some foreign exchange students choose not to date because of their limited stay in the United States, others experience it while abroad. According to senior Leon Wittern-Kochs, an exchange student from Germany, relationships are not encouraged.

“The guidelines are pretty strict. It’s not that you’re not allowed, but they don’t want us to date anybody,” Wittern-Kochs said. “Some host parents don’t allow it, but my host parents did.”

Kari Owens, the regional administrator for International Cultural Exchange Services, said most programs discourage dating, but if a student decides to pursue it they need to discuss it with their host family.

“Exchange students come over to live as a member of their host families so they are expected to abide by all the rules of the host family,” Owens said.

According to Wittern-Kochs, the rules on dating may be based on the fact that they do not want any of them to be emotionally damaged or vice versa.

“They don’t want us to leave and just get hurt,” Wittern-Kochs said. “The second big point is that they don’t want us to get anyone pregnant.”

Owens said dating may also prevent exchange students from making a wider range of friends.

“We’d just prefer them to have a more full experience and spend time with a lot of different people instead of just a lot of time with just one person,” Owens said.

Senior Jadess Taitano, who dated  Wittern-Kochs, disagreed.

“When I dated Leon, my friends were pretty much his friends and he met more people on his own,” Taitano said. “He had a wide set of friends, [dating] didn’t really affect anything.”

Wittern-Kochs dated Taitano for seven months despite his inevitable departure after only one school year.  Wittern-Kochs said they discussed the circumstances at the beginning of the relationship.

“That was the first thing I told her,” Wittern-Kochs said. “If we date I will have to leave in ten months and she has to live with it. There is no way around it.”

Taitano said people questioned if they would stay together, but she tried not to focus on the future.

“Honestly, I tried not to think about it . . . I wanted to live in the moment,” Taitano said. “We really just didn’t know ourselves so we couldn’t tell anyone anything; we just told everyone ‘just let us be in a relationship.’”

Junior Olivia Gutierrez-Camacho is currently dating senior Daniel Adam, an exchange student from Germany. They plan to continue their relationship after he returns to Germany.

“He’s hopefully coming back for college. If he doesn’t, we’re going to work something out,” Gutierrez-Camacho said.

According to Gutierrez-Camacho, there is no difference between a foreign exchange student dating and two American students dating because most teenagers feel similar emotions. Wittern-Kochs agreed.

“I don’t think you can tell someone not to date anybody. You’re in a new environment with new people and new people that you get to know,” Wittern-Kochs said. “I think it just kind of happens. I never really planned on it.”