Tuesday, November 20, 2012

German Exchange Program facilitates understanding others

Monday, October 8th, Alexander Kolloge and 13 other high school students from Germany arrived to Houston. The students will stay with host families from the Westchester Academy for International Studies and Stratford High School communities.

Through Oct. 26, the German students will shadow their American counterparts, getting a feel for what school is like here. They’ll also go on several planned field trips around the greater Houston area, and on weekends, take side trips and participate in American life with their host families.

In June, a group of Houston students spent four weeks in Germany. The program is coordinated at Westchester by German teacher Juergen Carl Mueller.

They started with a couple days in Cologne before taking a train to Ganderkesee to meet and stay with their host families, Mueller said. Ganderkesee is a town of about 30,000 in northwest Germany, near Bremen. They spent three weeks attending school at Gymnasium Ganderkesee. The German school system features a wider variety of educational options than the American school system. A Gymnasium is a school for the students who intend to continue education at University or College, as opposed to those planning on going straight into industry.

On off days and weekends, the students took field trips including visiting major city of Hamburg and the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven- where records for Central Europe are held. Students also participated in other activities with their host families throughout the 3 week period.

This year is the third exchange between the Spring Branch ISD students and Ganderkesee, Mueller said. The students who traveled this past year to Germany are Emily Crawford and John Hopes from Stratford and Theodore Bauer, Mitchell Barry, Genesis Frazar, John Dakota Kelly, Autumn Riehle, Victoria Sarnoff, Alexey Schmidt, and Ryan Wong from Westchester, and Hannah Shutka of Robert E. Lee High School.

The German trip ended with three days in Berlin, where students toured the Reichstag, and watched games of the European Cup on a large screen near the Brandenberg Gate. The German students are attending school during their time in Houston, and will also take field trips to locations including Space Center Houston, the San Jacinto Battleground, KUHF Studios, the African-American Library at the Gregory School, Rice University, "Death of a Salesman" at the Alley Theater, and Ballet Folklorico de Mexico at the Miller Outdoor Theater.

Kolloge said that the American influence in Germany is strong, especially pop culture. He said that young people in Germany want to look like Americans and enjoy American music and fast food outlets. College reports enjoying learning about the differences in the cultures. Kolloge’s host, WAIS sophomore Theodore Bauer, spent his early elementary years in England and had been to Germany before last summer’s trip.

“It was interesting going to school with them and seeing what that was like,” Bauer said. Bauer has taken German at WAIS since 6th grade and said that while he can “get around,” his skills are still “less than perfect.”

See: related article by Rusty Graham on the Memorial Examiner
See: related article on SBISD's School Zone

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