Germany’s Katharina Müller-Dott

Posted on September 9, 2010

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After being friends with swimming exchange students when I was in school, I thought it would be a good idea to do an question and answer session to see how they feel. One of ours (in Orlando-Oviedo) that came to Florida in 2009-2010 was a funny and very intelligent person by the name of Katharina Müller-Dott. An extremely athletic German swimmer that only started swimming roughly 4+ years ago.  After the German swimming dominance in the 70’s and 80’s it was surely a treat to get her side of the story…So here goes.  By the way, her “Trip to Florida” page is http://www.katha-goes-to-florida.blogspot.com/ .   Go take a look around!

When did you start swimming and why?

I started swimming in 2004, when I was 11 years old. I don’t really remember the reason why I started swimming but my mum always told me that it’s good for my back so I just continued and then I wanted to get better that’s why I began to practice more than just twice a week.

What brought you to the idea of being an exchange student in the United States?

Well, doing a year abroad was getting more popular in Germany and some of my friends went to the U.S. and to Australia. I thought it would be cool even though I was super scared by the idea of being away from home for at least 5 months. And I knew one thing for sure: If I go abroad, I will definitely be swimming with a team.

Why choose Oviedo, FL?

Summer 2008 I was in Florida with my family and my coach gave me a list with some teams. My dad sent a lot of them e-mails and Blue Dolfins Coach Charlie Rose was one of them who replied back. We also talked to the coach in Gainesville, because my coach’s wife went to UF, and the coach from Coral Springs, because he is German. I went to Fort Lauderdale, Oviedo and Gainesville, and Charlie was super nice and I thought if I had problems I could talk to him the easiest. And I’m glad I picked Oviedo! It was the right choice. 🙂

I know you were “Student of the Week” at Oviedo High School, which is impressive, especially being an exchange student.

I was surprised because normally only seniors or crazy smart kids get to be Student of the Week. But it was cool to see my name on the OHS marquee in front of the school. I was proud because I felt very honored.

How does swimming in the United States differ from swimming in Germany?

Practices with the Blue Dolfins in Oviedo were so much more creative! I started loving swimming and I didn’t want to miss a single practice. I had so much fun with the team and I saw a difference in my swimming. The swimmers were like a family. Charlie’s practice were hard, no doubt! But I had so much fun and I learned a lot about swimming. I tried harder than I did in Germany and even now back in Germany I try to practice what I learned with the Blue Dolfins.

World Record Holder Ryan Lochte and Katharina

What did your German coaches think of you going to the US? What did they say when you came back?

My coach and I argued a lot because sometimes he didn’t get my humor…He was new at my team and I only practiced with him for a year before I went to Florida. Now that I am back, I’m pretty sure he likes the way I practice now and we do get along better. 😉

Was it weird living with another family for 9 months?

294 days…My best friend counted every single one. It was super weird being at the airport and going home with people I’ve never met before! I didn’t have a choice and I wanted to do it…The Moorheads were super nice and I adjusted really fast even though I remember the first 3 weeks, I was so homesick and I wanted to fly home. However, Mrs. Moorhead always talked to me and helped me through the rough times. And in February, I moved to the Sokolowski’s. Ali and I got along super well and it was great to have two different types of families.

How many times did your family come from Germany to see you here in the states?

My family only came once. It was in December right before Christmas! It was a surprise, the best surprise ever! I didn’t know they would come and Paige was saying weird stuff that day like: I bet you miss your family. And it’s Christmas. I was actually getting mad because she reminded me and it made me sad…She knew they were coming. I cried when I saw my parents and my brother and my sister! I thought I was dreaming. But I’m glad they came, it was a great time.

Would you recommend being an exchange student to you friends?

5000 miles apart from my family and my friends and being in a country where I don’t have a single friend, don’t understand much and don’t have a family isn’t the easiest thing when you’re 16 years old! But after the 10 months I stayed in Florida, I would say it was amazing! Nobody can take away the experience, everything I learned and all the friends I met. It was the best thing I decided to do and if somebody has the chance to go abroad, he/she should do it!

How was the swimming in the U.S. compared to Europe?

I liked high school swimming because we don’t have high school sports in Germany, I only swim for a club. Swimming was pretty much the same except we only swim meters. I guess swimmers are the same everywhere. We share the same thoughts and practices everyday.

What about swim meets?

Swim meets went by way faster! And I loved singing the National Anthem. It gives you some special feeling. We don’t do that in Germany. 😦  But one thing I missed was an award ceremony after swim meets. We always get medals for 1st-3rd place in your age group, not just for the open group.

How hard was the language barrier?

I always understood more than I could say. Most of the time I said ‘yes’ at first, and I had no idea what the person just said. My sentences were so simple and I only used the easiest words. After 3 weeks I understood almost everything and after another 4 weeks I could say most of the things I wanted to say. I’m a really funny person but it’s hard to be funny if you don’t know any words. Most of my friends figured my character out after 2 or 3 months because that was the time when I really started to talk all the time-something I can do really well!

What were your favorite things to do in the U.S. that you can’t do in Germany?

Going shopping and spending my Dad’s money! 😀 Well, I still go shopping but we only have one Hollister in Germany (at least in Frankfurt) and we don’t have most of the stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret….

I miss driving with Ali to school (I’m riding my bike now)…and I really miss singing to Jason Derulo. I also miss all those different restaurants and fast food places.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I really miss the Blue Dolfins! It was a great time. I always say: A journey of my life, I couldn’t have done anything better. ♥

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