When Eva Wever stepped off the plane at Sky Harbor Airport July 29 and into the desert we call home, she realized Phoenix was going to be quite different than her hometown of Oldenburg, Germany. Wever, 16, is living in Ahwatukee Foothills with the Chapman family for one year through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. She is attending Desert Vista High School as a junior this year. "Desert Vista is big," Wever said wide-eyed. "I think it's cool they play songs between each period, we don't have that in Germany." Wever said Desert Vista is quite different from school in Germany for many reasons besides musical passing periods. For instance, Wever explained that in Oldenburg there are three high schools, each for a different level of academic ability. Grades are given on a number scale of 1-6. Students excelling with grades of 1 and 2 go to the top school, students receiving middle-of-the-road grades of 3 go to the average school and students receiving grades 4, 5 and 6 go to an under-performing school. "If you start getting better grades you can transfer to a better school," said Wever, who attends a top school. "What I miss are the lessons in Germany because they are very different. Here they want you to listen and write everything down, in Germany they want you to listen and interpret things." Wever has made new friends at Desert Vista, experienced American football games and even made the junior varsity soccer team. "My friend from Germany also tried out for the soccer team and we were amazed at how good they are," Wever said. "Also, football is a nice sport. I don't know why they don't play in Germany." Wever's host parents, Jim and Melinda Chapman, have two daughters, Casler, 13, and Rosemary, 11. The Akimel A-al Middle School students make Wever feel at home because she has two sisters of the same ages in Germany. Since July, the Chapmans have entertained Wever by exploring the western U.S. They have visited Sedona, southern California, Hawaii and Disneyland. "We were the first to get there and the last to leave," Wever said of her trip to Disneyland. She plans to re-visit the theme park again with friends from Belgium and Italy before she returns to Germany this summer. "The U.S. is huge," Wever said. "You can really see the difference just driving from Arizona to California. It's like if I drove from Germany to Spain." Although the Chapman family is similar to her own, Wever admits she still gets homesick once in a while. "I talk to my family every two weeks," Wever said. "I write my friends e-mails so I know what's going on back home. I can't wait to go back, but I will also miss it here." More than 8,000 students participate in Rotary Youth Exchange each year. For more information, visit www.rotary.org/en/StudentsAndYouth/YouthPrograms/RotaryYouthExchange/Pages/ridefault.aspx. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or cfrayer@aztrib.com.

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