Friendship on a clock

When it comes to transfer students, every second counts; these friends prove that friendship prevails even when facing the test of time.


Nora Oksanen

Pictured is Annabelle Gussarson (left) and Emma Hanhus (right), working backstage for the Descendants musical.

In 2022, junior Emma Hanhus moved to the United States. as a part of an exchange student program from Braunschweig, Germany. For the first month of her time at Antioch Community High School, Hanhus was generally an introverted student, but after a fateful friendship, she stands as a strong social figure at ACHS with her best friend, sophomore Annabelle Gussarson, at her side. Now, the two navigate life together until Hanhus’s return to Germany in June. 

Since she was 12 years old, Hanhus sought to escape the confines of her hometown Braunschweig in Germany where her classes had been with the same students her entire life to experience America as an exchange student. After COVID-19, Hanhus was taught the lesson of seizing the day, so as soon as exchange student programs resumed, she applied. At the beginning of her junior year, Hanhus began life in America.

Hanhus currently lives with her host parents and host sister in Antioch. She is an avid Harry Styles fan, currently in art club and has been on the stage crew at ACHS for the “Puffs” play and “Descendants” musical, which is where Hanhus met Gussarson. The two were fast friends, becoming quickly inseparable while working together backstage, but drama club was far from the only dramatic thing binding these friends.

“We started talking when Annabelle was crushing on someone,” Hanhus said. “We were talking about it all the time because I was like, ‘I love man drama.'”

Gussarson, as well as being in drama club, is also in art club, Spanish club, National Art Honor Society, National Honor Society and the disc golf club at ACHS; truly, she is a social butterfly. Gussarson has lived in Antioch for most of her life and considers it a Gilmore Girls-esk town, which revolves around its schools and is perfect for transfer students. Hanhus agrees with Gussarson, and has fallen in love with Antioch and ACHS during her time here.

“I love ACHS,” Hanhus said. “I have so much pride for the school, more than I ever will for my German school.”

From their fateful meeting, there has always been a clock on Hanhus and Gussarson’s friendship, but that has not limited them. For Hanhus, time in America is a limited resource, so she has sought to make the most of every second. The quick friendship between Gussarson and Hanhus has meant that the pair is able to embark on their adventures together: attended homecoming and Winterfest; many football, basketball and volleyball games; road tripped to Minneapolis and Urbana, Ill. and explored the Antioch area.

Though their split is inevitable, the pair generally avoids the topic of Hanhus returning to Germany. Gussarson has stated on multiple occasions that she feels like she has known Hanhus her whole life and Hanhus has woven herself into the pattern of ACHS. Therefore, the fact Hanhus is leaving in just over two months is jarring. 

“It feels like she’s always been here,” Gussarson said. “I’m so used to her being around that, without her, it’s going to feel like something is missing, like something is off.”

Luckily, Hanhus’s return to Germany will not mean the end of her friendship with Gussarson. The pair plans to stay in touch over the internet and visit each other as often as possible given the distance. Their time together in Antioch was short-lived, but their friendship will not be; they have forged memories that will last forever.