When Bennet Vollbehr arrived in the United States about a month ago, he had a few things he wanted to accomplish.

As an exchange student, he is hoping to improve his English speaking skills and to learn more about the American way of life. Other than that, he is pretty open.

Vollbehr said when it comes to the next nine-plus months he just wants to take things as they come.

“That way I can be surprised when they happen,” he said.

Hailing from northern Germany near Hamburg, Vollbehr said he lives in a city of about 50,000 people, and he admitted coming to a community like Redwood Falls with a much smaller population has been eye opening. 

“I like it,” he said. “The people here seem to be bound together.”

Prior to his arrival in Minnesota, Vollbehr said he spent some time on the east coast at a camp where he interacted with other exchange students and got acclimated to the country he would be calling home for a while. That, he said, was a great experience.

Now staying at the Chris and Kelly Schmitz home in Redwood Falls, Vollbehr is adjusting to his new surroundings as part of an American family and as a student at Redwood Valley High School.

Officially classified as a sophomore, Vollbehr will spend his time at school studying a variety of subjects, including English and history, but he will also be exploring other courses, such as strength and conditioning and cooking.

Beyond the classroom, he is currently part of the Cardinal cross country team.

Back in Germany, Vollbehr has participated in a track club program, and so running on the cross country team seemed to be a good fit.

Vollbehr added he wanted to get involved in an activity outside of the classroom that gave him the opportunity to interact with other kids.

“You don’t get a lot of time to talk during school,” he said, adding the activities outside of school provide that chance for him to get to know others and hopefully make a few friends along the way. “I think this will be my best way to meet new people.”

He is also hoping to be part of the track team in the spring but said he has not yet decided if he will participate in any of the winter activities.

Education in Germany is quite a bit different, said Vollbehr, adding he does not have every class of study every day, and not every school day ends at the same time. For example, he may have class until 1 p.m. one day and then stay until 4 p.m. the next based on the class schedule for the day.

“The days are not the same, but the weeks are,” Vollbehr explained.

As one whose primary language is German, Vollbehr is demonstrating a strong grasp of the English language. After all, he said he has been studying it since he was four years old.

Yet, he admitted, coming to a country where English is spoken all of the time showed him he still has a lot to learn.

“There are still a lot of words I don’t know,” he said, adding that has posed some challenges in communication during his first few weeks in his new surroundings.

Vollbehr said he did not know a lot about Minnesota before arriving. However, he was told the people have a very strong accent, which Vollbehr said he has not really noticed. What he has seen is something else he was told about this area – the people are very nice.

The son of Guido and Astrid Vollbehr has one sister, Jenni, who is 19.

Vollbehr said he is enjoying his time in Redwood Falls, adding, however, he would like to find a bike that he could ride around town. That, he said, could provide him with a little more independence.