Student Perspective

German Students Get Opportunity of a Lifetime

by Benjamin Skye | December 20, 2011 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

Experience Life International (ELI 360) has always had close ties with Germany. Our founder, Ted Presley, met his wife, Ellen Presley, a German native, when they were both students at Abilene Christian University back in January 1967…


This fall, ELI 360’s connection with Germany was further strengthened when two students from Lugau, Germany enrolled in our English as Second Language (ESL) program at Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) in Abilene, Texas. The boys arrived in late August, and had the opportunity to experience life at a U.S. liberal arts university. They lived in the dorms, ate in the cafeteria, hung out with American students and became part of the HSU Family. They also played soccer for the HSU Cowboys under the guidance of Coach Heger and made significant contributions as the team stormed into the playoffs after a shaky start.

Maxim Farger (left) and Robert Hornig (right) from Germany.

Maxim Farger (left) and Robert Hornig (right) from Germany.

Before the students left on their tour of the United States this Christmas break, ELI 360 managed to catch up with them. Below is the full interview:

ELI 360: Hi Robert and Maxim, thank you for taking time out to speak to us. First, can you tell us how you heard about ELI 360 and the ESL Program?
Maxim: I heard about ELI 360 from a family friend of mine named Reiner Kallus. Mr. Kallus turned out to be a friend of Ellen Presley. They had known each other since they were teenagers. Mr. Kallus had visited Ted and Ellen in Abilene, Texas before and he told me about ELI 360 and how Hardin-Simmons was a good university.
Robert: (laughs) I heard about ELI 360 through Maxim!

What were some of your ideas about the United States before you came?
Maxim: When I think about the U.S., I think about fast food, good movies, Hollywood and a lot of advertising. When I think about Texas, steaks, pickup trucks, big cars, and hot weather come to mind.
Robert: I agree with Maxim. I also thought about fast food and big cars. In addition, I also think of highways and big cities like New York.

Were those ideas and expectations accurate?
Maxim: They were mostly accurate. I was surprised however, to find out that everybody here in Abilene was so friendly. People here genuinely care about you, unlike in Germany where people were more serious.
Robert: My thoughts were mostly accurate except for one thing: There was A LOT more fast food than I had expected (laughs). I was disappointed, however, to find that the public transportation in Abilene was pretty poor.

Did you experience any culture shock? What did you find most different about the U.S.?
Robert: The first month was really warm, and the food was hard to get used to. Also, I was surprised to find that there were barely any sidewalks in Abilene. It was hard to get around on foot. In Germany, most people cycle. People here drive a lot!
Maxim: I agree. The weather was hot and the food was different. The biggest difference is that the infrastructure here is not as great as it is in Germany, and getting around is hard if you don’t own a car.

What is the difference between a U.S. University and a German one?
Robert: In Germany, we don’t have varsity athletic teams for our universities. We only have professional sports clubs with their own academies, such as Bayern Munich (soccer team). The universities in Germany are also much bigger. We don’t have any small universities. Also, we only have one university per city. You’ll never find three universities in one city, like here in Abilene.
Maxim: The teaching quality and style here is very good – similar to Germany. I do appreciate the diversity here. I lived in a small town in Germany so it was not very diverse.

Maxim and Robert pictured here with the HSU Cowboys Soccer Team.

Maxim and Robert pictured here with the HSU Cowboys Soccer Team.

Robert HornigDid you enjoy playing soccer for HSU? Did you have a good season?
Maxim: I liked it. It was a good and new experience since we don’t have university teams in Germany. It was a good season. We made some good friends on the team but we weren’t very close. We didn’t have any problems with anybody on the team.
Robert: I had a lot of fun. We stayed in nice hotels and traveled a lot. We had some successful games. All in all, it was good. Everyone on the team was friendly. It was really nice to be able to score two goals.

Do you have a message for the guys on the team for next season?
Maxim: I hope the guys can win the ring next season, and that they can win the national championship. I believe they can do it, they have good players. Also, Coach Heger needs to improve his German (laughs).
Robert: (laughs) Yes. Coach Heger needs to improve his German. On a more serious note, I really hope the guys can win the ring. I also want to thank Coach Heger personally for the opportunities he gave us.

Maxim FargerDid you enjoy your classes? What were your teachers and classmates like?
Maxim: The classes were good. It was nice to have classmates from a different country (China). Also, I really liked that we got to shoot guns on one of our weekend trips to a farm. Only in Texas! Which reminds me, I also think of guns when I think about Texas! (laughs)
Robert: Some of the classes were boring since we had to learn so much history (Robert doesn’t like history, apparently). But it was great overall. I like that had various trips. We got to go to the zoo, as well as visit with some employers in Abilene to learn about jobs.

Did you miss your family a lot? How often did you stay in contact with them?
Maxim: I missed my girlfriend a lot. I did Skype and Facebook my family and my girlfriend every day. I also really missed my close friends.
Robert: It was fine. Family is important to me, but my time here was brief, and I enjoyed it here so it wasn’t bad. I managed to communicate with my girlfriend every day.

Overall, did you have a positive experience here?
Maxim and Robert: Yes. Very much so.

Quickly, what are the three best things about Hardin-Simmons University?
Maxim: Soccer Team, Friends, and the Swimming Pool!
Robert: Dorm life, FIFA Tournament with the guys, and the soccer team!

Would you recommend this program (ESL) and this university to your friends back in Germany and around Europe?
Maxim and Robert: Definitely. The price was very good for everything that we got (food, housing, tuition, books, etc.). It was reasonable. It’s unfortunate that university is free in Germany, otherwise we are sure more students will come. Our advice to German students: if you only want to study for a semester, and to get new experiences, HSU is definitely the place to be!

Have you made any fond memories? Can you name your best memory from this semester?
Maxim: Getting into the playoffs with the Cowboys.
Robert: NSO (New Student Orientation)!!! The first week was absolutely amazing!

What are some of your plans after this semester?
Maxim and Robert: We will be in Miami with a friend over Christmas and New Year’s. After that we will be touring the major cities in the U.S.: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii and Las Vegas. Afterwards, we will head back to Germany on February 8, 2012.

That sounds like quite the trip! What do you plan to do when you return to Germany?
Maxim: I will work again at my previous job with Siemens where my brother Alex works. I will start university in October. I plan to study medicine but we’ll see how it works out. I might start off studying physical therapy and then go into medicine.
Robert: I will work first as well. I will try and find a job. Hopefully I will get to work for the hospital I worked for before I left. I will start school in October, probably majoring in Material Science.

Maxim Farger and Robert Hornig would like to take this opportunity to thank their family members and girlfriends for their support. They would also like to thank Coach Heger and the HSU Cowboys for a good season. Finally, they want to say a special thank you to two of their best friends here in the U.S.: Kurt Schreckengast and Ese Ebhomielen for all the wonderful memories and the deep friendship that they have formed.

ELI 360 wishes Maxim and Robert all the best with their future endeavors. Hopefully, their time here would open the door for many more German and European students to consider enrolling at our partner universities. If you would like find out more about our ESL Program at HSU, please e-mail us:

Add a Comment