A strange, new world
by DANIEL GADDY
May 30, 2012 | 2476 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Damaris Dressler stands with members of her family and her host family, the Sherers, at the Sherer home in Jasper. From left, Dressler’s father, Walter Dressler; Damaris; her brother, Daniel Dressler; Pratt Sherer and his daughter, Laura. - Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
Damaris Dressler stands with members of her family and her host family, the Sherers, at the Sherer home in Jasper. From left, Dressler’s father, Walter Dressler; Damaris; her brother, Daniel Dressler; Pratt Sherer and his daughter, Laura. - Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
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When German exchange student Damaris Dressler arrived at the Birmingham airport on July 27 to meet her host family, Pratt and Teresa Sherer of Jasper, the geographical differences were immediately apparent.

“It was so big and so hot,” Dressler said. “I was dying.”

Though the temperatures were typical for Alabama in July, she had dressed for the weather in Frankfurt, which had a high in the 50s the day she left.

While living with the Sherers, Dressler spent the rest of the year immersing herself in the culture of America, and the South in particular.

The Sherers said that, though Dressler speaks perfect English, she had a bit of trouble deciphering Southern accents.

Dressler also had trouble understanding the concept of a redneck.

“I met some though,” she said, as the Sherers laughed.

The Sherers and their daughters took her to an Auburn football game. Dressler, 17, played softball for the first time at Jasper’s First Baptist Church. She also rode horses at Equines Assisting Special Individuals (EASI Riders) in Boldo.

Dressler joined the Walker High School choir and went to the school’s prom and graduation ceremony.

“She has just been a part of the whole scene here and a part of the school,” Pratt Sherer said.

“She’s been a joy to have,” said Teresa Sherer, who is a member of the Jasper City Board of Education.

Dressler met the Sherers through the Education First Foundation, a nonprofit that places around 3,000 exchange students with American families every year.

Dressler’s brother, Daniel, went through the program in 1994 and spent a year living in New Zealand. “I don’t think I would have done it had I not known about his experience,” Damaris said.

In addition to the experiences she had with the Sherers, Damaris also visited Washington D.C., the Grand Canyon and Disney World with other exchange students with the EF Foundation.

Two weeks ago Damaris’ family (her parents, brother and sister-in-law) made a surprise visit to see her, and they took a road trip to Tennessee.

They visited Sun Studios in Memphis and met Lisa Marie Presley at Graceland.They also went to Nashville and toured the Gibson Guitar Factory.

Though Damaris had to return to school after Nashville, her family continued on a tour of the southeast that included a stay at Teresa Sherer’s sister’s plantation home just outside Natchez, Miss.

They then traveled to New Orleans, and then to Panama City, Fla.

Damaris said her parents were initially worried about her being gone for an entire year. However, she said, “My parents knew I would be with good people here.”

When asked what she will miss about Jasper, she said that, in regard to food, she will miss biscuits and gravy, as well as Perico’s.

Pratt Sherer said the family could not have asked for a better student to host.

“She’s ruined it for us,” he joked. “She’s been absolutely wonderful.”