His Surprise Was Friends School’s Gain

Junior and German exchange student Nils von Boehmer rolled with the uncertainty surrounding his Baltimore home-stay, and hit the ground running – literally.
Juniors Nils von Boehmer and Mason Cost pose before Friends Schools fall 2023 Homecoming dance.
Juniors Nils von Boehmer and Mason Cost pose before Friends School’s fall 2023 Homecoming dance.
Hoa Cost

When Nils Von Boehmer, an exchange student from Hanover, Germany, was getting ready for his multi-hour flight the next day, he still had no idea who he would be living with for the next year. He knew he was heading to Friends School of Baltimore for his junior year of high school. But everything else was up in the air.

“Getting my host family was a little stressful because I got my host family the night before I came here. So I was about to get on the plane,” he says. “I just looked at my phone before going to bed. I saw the email and then I kind of found out who my host family [would be], so I didn’t have a chance to chat with them before or meet them before.”

Usually, it doesn’t work like that. Students know who their families are well before they arrive at their new homes. But Nils rolled with it. He came to the United States through the ASSIST program, a nonprofit that matches academically talented international students with American independent schools. The program has scholarships students can apply to. If they’re accepted, it will search for a private school in the United States for them. 

“They told me: ‘Okay, you’re gonna go to Friends School of Baltimore.’ Like ‘Take it or you don’t get it,’ ” he says. “So I took it.” 

When Nils arrived in America, he had little time to be nervous. Instead, the program helped him hit the ground running. 

I got my host family the night before I came here. I was about to get on the plane [when I] looked at my phone [and] found out who my host family [would be].

— Nils von Boehmer '25

“When I first came to the US here, we had like four days of an orientation with all the scholars from ASSIST. They kind of introduced you to the US and told you what will happen in the next year,” he remembers. “It’s like they kind of made you don’t feel that nervous.”

Nils is more than just an academically gifted student. He is a multitalented individual. He played handball back in Germany, an initially, was upset to hear that there was no handball at Friends.

But this gave him a chance to try something new – and this fall, to his surprise, he became one of the fastest runners on the Friends Varsity cross country teamAt Friends, Nils became third on the team. This is impressive on its own – but if you include the fact that Nils has never run cross country before, it’s even more incredible.

Senior captain Keller Handwerk says Nils has become both a valued teammate, and a friend. 

“We’re both on the faster end of the team, so we end up running together a lot. I just kind of strung up a conversation with him when running. A lot of the guys on the team will just talk. When you run you really tend to get closer with the guys you run with,” Keller says. “I gave him a ride home once or twice. And we just kind of hung [out] after school with some friends. We just kind of became friends just like that”. 

The cross country team poses with their coaches in warmer weather. German exchange student Nils von Boehmer surprised himself by being a star runner. (Diana Sugg)

Keller also says Nils is funny and a good person to be around. Sometimes Nils feels shy – but he says that is probably due to the language barrier, which will shrink as his English improves.

However, Nils’ talents don’t end with sports and academics. In Germany, he enjoyed playing the flute and the drums for the school orchestra. On top of that, he also played as a duo with a friend in smaller concerts. He says he enjoys playing the drums more than the flute. Here at Friends, he plays both in the wind ensemble. 

You might think Nils would have had a culture shock in America from coming from Europe. But Nils says he didn’t have a shock when he arrived in Baltimore – because he took a vacation to Las Vegas first. So he got all his shocks out there. 

However, one surprise to him was how the houses here in America are much larger than the ones in Germany. Another thing he found a lot different from Germany was the food – sometimes in a positive way. 

“My favorite food [is] probably barbecue. American barbecue is pretty good,” he says.

Nils contrasted that to what he eats back home. In Germany, they eat a lot of bread with ham or cheese, as well as vegetables with potatoes with either some type of meat or fish. He said that he thinks German food is generally more healthy, but this doesn’t mean that he prefers German food. He said it depends, and he enjoys them both. 

Jocelyn Boothe, Nils’ host mother and a nurse here at Friends, remembers being surprised and excited when she learned about Nils’ arrival all those months ago. 

“We knew [he was coming on] August 13, and he arrived August 22. [So] it was definitely a whirlwind. We got back from vacation on the 21st and he moved in on the 22nd,” she says. “So It was fun. It was kind of like a big adventure.”

When Ms. Boothe first met Nils on her front porch, she got the impression that he was quiet and shy. But after around an hour of being with him, she realized that wasn’t the case at all: he was outgoing and funny. So if you ever see Nils in the hallway, consider saying hi!

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