Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
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Book Two of the New Tales of Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
Copyright ©2010, ©2012

Chapter 8

After all the hassles of the day before, it was good for Susan to know that she had her family behind her. It still stank to realize she might not be able to graduate with the classmates she’d been in school with since kindergarten because of that idiot Gingrich, but at least it was good to know that it would be her last year there, graduation or not. And it looked like she not only had a fall-back position for going to college, but a very appealing one at that. On top of that, there were a lot of other options, all of which were preferable to spending an unnecessary extra year at Spearfish Lake High School. Spending one year there was going to be more than enough to hold her.

The first thing the next morning Susan went back over to the high school to talk to Mr. Hekkinan again. She didn’t tell him what she had in mind, but took the time to ask him what requirements for graduation she still had to fulfill. It turned out the only real outstanding requirement was that senior English course, which she already knew she could take for high school credit at Riverside. Other than that, it was just simple credit hours of electives, and those could be done on dual enrollment, too. The only problem was to get everything in was going to take more than the six hours that the school system would pay for, but she thought it possible that something could worked out on that issue.

“I can see where you’re going with that,” Mr. Hekkinan told her. “And it’s probably not a bad idea. You don’t have to do it today, but you probably ought to be taking a course or two here just to show that you’re still a student here. Otherwise the superintendent might get hung up on the same attendance issue that caused this problem in the first place.”

Susan agreed that she would think about it, but probably not from the angle that Mr. Hekkinan was figuring, mostly because there weren’t any classes at Spearfish Lake High School available to her that she had any real interest in taking. It was a side issue, anyway, and she figured she needed to get the main problems solved first, which was enrolling at Riverside and deciding what courses she would take there.

Mr. Hekkinan supplied her with a copy of her transcript and some other paperwork that would be needed for the dual enrollment, which would have to be completed at the college. It seemed like there wasn’t much more that could be done without going down there. So, she went home, called her parents to let them know what she was doing, and changed into a knee-length black pencil skirt and a nice blouse she borrowed from her mother, along with low heels. That should make her appear a little more serious than the typical high school student, she thought. On a whim, she grabbed a copy of her Abitur results and included it in the package of papers she’d gotten from Mr. Hekkinan, then got in the Cavalier and headed for Riverside.

She knew where the community college was – not far off the main road – and although she’d never driven there by herself, she had been there before, so it was easy to find. She took her time driving down the state road, since the sum total of her driving experience in the last year was the running around town she’d done with Megan the previous Sunday.

Riverside Community College was a collection of low masonry buildings, looking modern almost to the point of ugliness, and spread out around a mostly treeless green campus. It was about as far as she could imagine from Universität Albburg in the Buettingenwald of the Schwäbische Alb, which she’d visited with the Hauner family. She had been impressed with the uni, which was located near the historic Albburg Castle, and the view overlooking the plains of the Neckar River and the small but scenic Fischgabelsee. It still seemed a little like a dream that in a year she might be going there herself. It was only a little over four days since she’d been in Germany, and the difference still came close to overwhelming her at times.

The registration process at Riverside was much more complicated than she had imagined. The admissions office was easy. All she had to do was to show them the dual enrollment paperwork from Mr. Hekkinan and fill out some forms – and take some more that her parents would have to sign. From there she was sent to the registrar’s office, where she was given more paperwork, and asked what classes she wanted to take. “Other than English 101, I don’t know,” she told the dour-faced woman behind the desk. “I guess I need to talk to someone about that.”

“You haven’t been assigned an adviser yet, I take it?” the woman asked.

“No, I had no idea I needed one.”

“They should have sent you there first from the admissions office,” the woman said. “Maybe you’d better go back there and get them to assign you an advisor.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Susan smiled, wondering if this kind of confusion was the normal state of affairs around Riverside, or whether she’d just slipped through the cracks. It seemed like an ominous portent of things to come.

After more messing around in the admissions office she was sent to a woman on the next floor of the building; a nameplate on her desk read, “Joyce Thatcher.” “And what can I do for you today?” Mrs. Thatcher asked.

Susan explained that she’d come to see about the dual enrollment program, and that she was sure she wanted to take a course that would fill in for her senior English requirement at Spearfish Lake High School and that would most likely be able to be transferred elsewhere.

“I take it you’re planning on transferring to college elsewhere once you’re out of high school,” Mrs. Thatcher said. “Do you have any idea where you’re planning on going?”

“It’s wide open,” Susan told her. “It could be as close by as Weatherford, or as far away as Germany.”

“Germany?” Mrs. Thatcher frowned. “That’s something I don’t hear every day. What made you think of that?”

“I speak German fluently,” Susan told her, and went on to explain she’d just returned from an exchange year in Germany without getting into the details.

“Well,” Mrs. Thatcher shook her head. “I sure can’t guarantee that any of our courses would transfer to a school in Germany, although if you want an off-the-top-of-my-head opinion, I doubt it. But, I just don’t know, and am not sure how you could find out other than contacting the school in Germany.”

“I guess that doesn’t surprise me,” Susan told her. “One of the things I’ve got to do in the next year is work that question out, and there’s a chance that I could go to a school here in the States, although I don’t know which one, yet.”

“I think we’d better work on the assumption that you’ll be going to a school in this country,” Mrs. Thatcher shook her head. “At least that’s the safe way to bet it. In other words, we’d better make sure you’re signed up for courses that will transfer to most schools here. Weatherford is pretty good about accepting transfer credit from us, and we have a degree completion program with them here. It’s possible to get a degree from here with only having to attend a few classes there, at least in some majors. Do you know what you want to major in?”

“I’m not sure,” Susan told her. “I’ve considered a number of options ranging from video production through journalism and on to international business. You see, I have a skill at picking up languages easily and a taste for travel, and I want to find some kind of a job where I can do a lot of international travel.”

“That’s an interesting goal,” Mrs. Thatcher smiled in such a way that Susan could tell that she thought that Susan’s idea was just a big teenage dream and that she’d have to face reality sooner or later. “It’s going to take some work to accomplish it. I’ll tell you what. Let’s operate on the assumption that you’re going to continue at Weatherford, or possibly some state school and concentrate on getting you into classes that will transfer to one of them.”

“That sounds like a reasonable way to do it,” Susan agreed.

“Now, here’s the deal,” Mrs. Thatcher said. “We have several levels of the English 101 course. They range from what is basically remedial English for high school students who come in with a history of difficulties, on up through a level that is designed to give you the skills you need to research and write papers, prepare citations, and that kind of thing. It’s known as English 101e, and sometimes is called ‘Research and Composition.’ That’s certainly what I would recommend for you in your situation. In any college in this country, you will need to take a course something like it, and the sooner you take it, the better.”

“All right, let’s do it then. Beyond that, I really don’t much care what I take, so long as the course will count for dual credit in my high school, and I can transfer the credit elsewhere. In fact, I’d like to take as many courses that meet those requirements as I can.”

“Well, since you’re coming here on a high school dual enrollment program, you’re limited to six hours,” Mrs. Thatcher replied. “That’s all the high schools will pay for in the agreement we have with them.”

“If I have to pay more to be able to take more classes, I’d be willing to,” Susan told her. “In fact, I’d hoped to be able to take a full load of courses.”

Mrs. Thatcher let out a sigh. “I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible,” she said. “We occasionally matriculate students who don’t have a high school diploma, but they require high school completion courses taken here before we can let them into the regular courses.”

This was really disappointing news to Susan – it pretty well meant that she was only going to be able to take a couple courses at Riverside, and was going to have to take useless courses like Spanish I and art appreciation at Spearfish Lake. Six hours was hardly going to be worth the trouble of driving down to Riverside from Spearfish Lake several days a week!

But it was only a disappointment for a moment, just long enough to remember Oma Birgit’s words the night before. “But I am a high school graduate,” she protested. “Not only did I complete the Oberprima term, which is much the same as being a senior, at Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium in Regensburg, Germany while I was an exchange student, I did it with a high score on the Abitur, which is like a combination diploma and college entrance exam.”

“That’s . . . really different,” Mrs. Thatcher frowned. “Do you have some documentation?”

“Sure, I brought a copy of the Abitur certificate with me,” Susan said, digging into the folder of papers she was carrying, found the paper, and slid it across the desk to Mrs. Thatcher.

The advisor took one look at it and said, “It’s in German, and it might as well be Greek to me.”

“I can translate it for you,” Susan said. “The important part is that you see here that I passed the tests with a combined score of 658. The passing range is 280 to 840, so you can see I did pretty well on it.”

Mrs. Thatcher shook her head, then picked up her phone and punched several numbers. After a moment, she said into the phone, “Heidi, this is Joyce up in the intake advising office. I need your help up here for a moment if you can get away . . . sure, thanks.” She hung up the phone and turned back to Susan. “This is something that’s a little different, like I said. We occasionally have people showing up here with foreign diplomas, but this is the first time I can ever remember an American showing up with one. Usually if American students have graduated overseas, it’s from an American school, and they’re mostly students whose parents are in the military or something. I’m not sure how we’re going to treat this one.”

“Look at it this way,” Susan smiled realizing that the question was at least back up in the air again. “This gives you a little challenge to break up a routine day.”

“Oh, it’s doing that all right,” Mrs. Thatcher smiled, recognizing a good-natured tease when she saw one. “It’s good to have something that’s a little out of the normal routine cross my desk for once.”

A moment later a woman, perhaps in her thirties, walked into the office. “What is it I can help you with this morning?” she asked Mrs. Thatcher in a perceptible German accent.

“Heidi, I can’t read this,” the admissions advisor said. “Can you tell me what it’s all about?”

“Sure,” the new woman said, glancing at the Abitur certificate. After only a moment, she turned to Susan and said in German, “That’s really impressive! My congratulations to you! My own score on the Abitur was only 421, and I thought I was lucky to get that. What is someone from Johannes-Staudinger Gymnasium in Regensburg doing here?”

“Trying to get accepted as a full-time student,” Susan replied in German, of course. “Apparently they’re not familiar with the Abitur here.”

“Probably not. I would expect that you and I are the only ones at this school to have passed the Abitur. We occasionally have German students here for various reasons, but usually they have gone to a Realschule or Hauptschule. With a score like that I wonder why you’re not looking at going to a school at home.”

“It could happen next year, but unfortunately, this is home,” Susan sighed. “I’m an American, from Spearfish Lake.”

“An American?” the woman exclaimed. “From your accent I would have guessed someplace like Hamburg or Bremen! You speak much better German than I do English!”

“I learned it from my grandmother, who was from Bremerhaven,” Susan smiled. “I’m told I have a bit of Plattdeutsch in my accent, so I suppose I got it from her.”

“That’s amazing. How long did you go to school at Regensburg?”

“Just the one year,” Susan explained. “I was an exchange student, and I took the Abitur just to see how well I’d do on it. You’re the first person I’ve met in this country who it means anything to.”

Mrs. Thatcher was looking a little perplexed at the spate of German flying around the room, and finally broke in, saying. “So, what does that all mean?”

Heidi turned to the admissions advisor, “This young lady is most impressive,” she said in English. “Joyce, we have discussed between us the three-level system they have for high schools in Germany. She attended one of the highest level, the Gymnasium. They do not have diplomas like they do here, but graduates have to pass a test, the Abitur. This paper says that she passed the test with a score that would probably get her into one of the best schools in Germany, some place like Heidelberg or Albburg or Marburg, and she did it with only one year in Gymnasium. I would have to look up the current results to be sure, but the score is probably in the top ten percent.”

“Well, all right,” Mrs. Thatcher smiled. “I guess that pretty well settles the high school diploma question, and, uh . . . ” she glanced at the paperwork, “Miss Langenderfer-McMahon, I think I can see why going to college in Germany is an option for you. I don’t see any reason you can’t take a full load of courses here at Riverside this year. And thank you, Heidi.”

“My pleasure,” Heidi said, continuing in English. “I rarely find an American who speaks German at all, and it’s a pleasure to talk with an American who speaks it so well that she can fool me into thinking she’s actually German.” She turned to Susan and said, “You’ll probably be seeing me again. I’m in the registrar’s office, and when you come down there, ask for me. We can do your whole registration in German and give the office something to talk about.”

Alles ist in Ordnung,” Susan grinned. “In fact, if you want, I can come down there without much English.”

“You’d probably better not or someone will start insisting that you take an English as a second language course. You’re already fully bilingual, so that means we can bypass the foreign language class requirement.”

“Actually,” Susan smiled, “I’m quadrilingual.”

“Quadri . . . ” Mrs. Thatcher broke in. “You speak four languages?”

“I seem to have a talent for languages. I’m pretty fluent in both Spanish and French, although I’m not going to fool anyone into thinking I’m a native, since I wasn’t brought up speaking them. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could manage even that if I could live for a year or two in a French- or Spanish-speaking country.”

Mrs. Thatcher shook her head. “I think you’re going to be an interesting addition to the student body,” she said. “But something tells me we’re not going to be able to keep you around here for long.”

*   *   *

Susan felt pretty good as she pointed the little Chevy back toward Spearfish Lake. She’d gone down to Riverside with the intention of signing up for two courses, and more if she could get them. Full-time hadn’t really been part of her intention, but it looked like she could do it. She had a course schedule and a list of the courses that she could transfer, but other than English 101e she hadn’t made up her mind about any of them.

She needed to do something nice for Oma Birgit. Really, really nice! Susan really hadn’t thought of substituting the Abitur for an American diploma, and she wasn’t sure how well the idea would go elsewhere, but it had sure worked this time! If it weren’t for the possibility of the school picking up the cost for six hours of course work, she’d be darn tempted to just consider herself a dropout and never go near the place again!

What’s more, it seemed like it would be nice to do it right away, before the student count at Spearfish Lake High School was established, so that instead of Gingrich getting an extra $6,700 out of her, he’d lose twice that much. That’d serve him right!

It seemed pretty clear that if she were to do a year or two of work at Riverside, she could transfer into the degree completion program at Weatherford on the strength of her record there and maybe the Abitur, and never have to worry about an American high school diploma. In the future there might be some times when she had to be a little fuzzy about just how long she’d gone to school in Germany, but at that moment she thought she ought to be able to manage it. That was a pretty darn good deal for a test that she’d taken just on a whim!

There would be problems with it, of course. There were always problems, and just from her experience with Mrs. Thatcher it seemed likely that college administrators might be tempted to say “no” when confronted with something they didn’t understand. Of course, that was the way things tended to go anywhere, but it was to be expected in just about anything else, too.

The major problem, as Susan could see at that point, was money. The night before, they’d talked about her going to Riverside on the school’s nickel, and hadn’t really gotten into how she was going to pay for the extra courses she wanted to take. It seemed likely that her parents would pick up the extra costs – Riverside was considerably cheaper than someplace like, oh, Weatherford, and with the school kicking in for several hours of courses it would be cheaper yet. That would put the whole year well under the costs that her parents had paid for a semester for Henry, so it seemed likely that it could be fit into the budget.

Financial aid was a different story. While Susan didn’t know a great deal about it, she knew a bit from hearing the hassles that her parents had gone through with Henry. She was aware that she was well past the filing deadline for this year so there could be no help there, but at the bargain rate she was getting at Riverside it hardly seemed as if it would matter, this year anyway.

True, there would be the costs and pain in the neck of driving down to Riverside several times a week, but that was nothing compared to the cost of a dorm room and board at a place like Weatherford, for instance. Henry had told her that those were outlandishly expensive, and the quality marginal. Henry and Cindy had moved off campus into their own apartment at the earliest opportunity; while sex had obviously been part of the motivation, it had also been considerably cheaper than living on campus. She knew from Henry’s experience that a lot of colleges required students to live on campus for their freshman and sometimes sophomore years – but her time at Riverside would cut into that, too.

That was if she went to school in the States at all, and that was by no means a settled issue. Going to uni in Germany seemed more within reach than ever. It might be that the courses she was taking, whatever they were, might not transfer to a place like Albburg but they couldn’t hurt – and they could save her a year if she wound up going to a school in the States. Maybe, she thought, if she went to a school in the states She could work another “junior year abroad,” which would allow her to go to school in Germany for a year. There seemed plenty of options, but in her mind going off to Albburg still seemed like the most desirable option -- and in another year Elke might well be with Hans there! It seemed like it would fit together nicely.

But then, having a year of college already in the books when she would normally have been graduating from high school meant that she could be that much closer to finishing up her college career. Well, at least if she went to an American college -- it was difficult to use the term “uni” when thinking about an American school. That meant that she was going to have to spend some time thinking about that, as well, since her options seemed a lot wider now than they had this time the day before. Perhaps she could manage to set her sights a little higher than she’d considered previously.

Maybe, she thought wryly, that asshole Gingrich had done her a favor after all. He probably wouldn’t think so, and that would just make things sweeter.

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To be continued . . .

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