Visiting a new country, with a different language, different culture and different food can be intimidating.
But training to be a first responder can only add to the stress. Yet, that’s what German native Florian Tessendorf is doing in Wichita Falls.
“Because I wanted to.” With a few words, Tessendorf explained why he always wanted to be a firefighter.
“I got the idea in school-time and I thought about it. I thought it’s good work for me,” Tessendorf said.
The firefighter in training is from North-Rhine Westphalia, near Dusseldorf and is continuing his training with the Wichita Falls Fire Department.
The chief from his training department in Germany, Mulheim an der Ruhr, contacted Wichita Falls Assistant Fire Chief Donald Hughes more than a year ago about the possibility of an exchange program.
“He said this student has a brother-in-law that’s a pilot at Sheppard [Air Force Base]. So, a place for him to stay, all of that’s taken care of,” Hughes said. “He said: ‘I just need a fire station and a fire department to put him in.'”
Hughes said Tessendorf has gone through a lot of training: both fire and medical. Despite the similarities in training, both Hughes and Tessendorf are mindful of the differences in language.
“My English is not the best. But I understand everything I think,” Tessendorf said.
“As different as he sounds to us, I’m sure we sound really different to him with our Texas accents,” Hughes said.
But for the man named after the patron saint (Florian) of Feuerwehrleute or firefighters, Tessendorf said despite where he trains to become a firefighter, there is one commonality.
“A fireman is a fireman.” Something understood in any language.