Wednesday, January 5, 2011
What Will Our Exchange Partners Find Different in RI?
PUBLISHED Jan. 4, 2011, in GARNET VALLEY PRESS: NEWS (with several edits by rsb)
German exchange students spend three weeks in Garnet Valley
On Sept. 22, German students from Städtisches Gymnasium Straelen came to Garnet Valley to learn about all things American. Strälen, Germany is a nice town a couple minutes away from the Dutch border. Naturally, like practically everyone else in the world, the German exchange students wanted to experience something new and their school offered them that opportunity. Twenty exchange students arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport, where many of them shared their first hugs, handshakes and smiles with their American hosts, whom they would live with for the next three weeks.
When the Germans came to America, they did not only step into a different country—they stepped into a country full of people with a different lifestyle. There are many similarities between German and American culture, but there are also plenty of differences. Before the exchange, not a single one of the Germans had ever ridden a school bus. Before they entered our homes, the German students had to ask adults for rides to various places only occasionally. Germans usually travel by bike or foot or train as their daily source of transportation, and it’s very common for young people to utilize these methods of transportation. Several of the Germans had never had a Philly Cheese Steak, and convenience stores such as Wawa were altogether unfamiliar to them. What is typical in an American’s daily life is different from a German’s way of life and so does it go for any country that is ever compared to another.
When in Garnet Valley High School for their school days, the exchange students followed their hosts from class to class, observing how American classrooms work. In Germany, students do not have their major classes every day, and they usually don’t have class every period. When they don’t have class, they can go home; they are not required to stay in school and home is just a bike ride or short walk away. At Garnet Valley, the Germans got to experience life with block scheduling, school buses, and classes all day, every day.
Frau Robinson, GVHS’s German teacher, and the two teachers who came with the exchange students organized trips to enhance the guests’ learning experiences. The trips arranged for the German exchange students were to Valley Forge, Washington D.C., New York City, Lancaster, and Philadelphia. Their biggest trip was to New York City, where they spent three days in “The Big Apple” (WOW!--rsb) shopping and sightseeing. In Lancaster, they learned about old German settlers in America, especially the Amish. For the trip to Washington D.C., both the Germans and the hosts walked from the Lincoln Memorial, quickly stopped by the White House for pictures, and then spent the rest of the day in the vicinity of the National Mall. They also got to see what a real D.C. rally is like. For the trip to Philadelphia, both the Germans and the hosts visited Independence Hall and walked down South Street for a very memorable last day of their American experience.
Well before the end of their visit, the hosts and Germans had become great friends through a number of experiences provided by their teachers and their families. The Germans are not the only ones who learned from the exchange; the hosts learned from it as well. To say the least, they came, they saw…and then they left: to prepare for the return visit by the Garnet Valley Exchangers in Strälen next Spring! It will be hard to wait.
This article was written by GVHS student Suezette Waals and appeared in the GVHS newspaper.
While our GAPP Exchange is the only one like it in Rhode Island, there are hundreds of such exchanges around the USA (with over 25 partner schools in each of these stats: California; Illinois; Indiana; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New York; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Texas; Washington; Wisconsin).