German students see America through NT’s eyes
Foreign exchange students Hannah Klassen (left) and Marina Palgen hang out in the student rotunda at New Trier High School October 16, 2012. The students are from Trier, Germany. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 30, 2012 6:18PM
WINNETKA — For the past three weeks, more than two dozen German students immersed themselves in American culture, blending in with their peers at New Trier High School.
Arriving Sept. 27 as part of New Trier’s first student exchange program, the students from Trier, Germany lived with host families within the district and shadowed students of New Trier’s German classes.
“They were all involved in student life here,” said New Trier German teacher Venera Stabinsky. “They got to see our Northfield campus, attend the homecoming football game and dance, the pep rally and taught our students in their German class.”
The German students attended after school activities as well, including a dodge ball tournament, a school-sponsored Oktoberfest and were able to experience other North Shore communities.
“I was interested in the culture, how their school life is and I like to meet new people,” said Mara Hemm, 15, on why she joined the exchange program. “Chicago is big, stormy and has good shopping malls. I don’t want to go home.”
While taking in American life, the students took three separate field trips to Chicago to visit the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, the Art Institute, and architectural tour on the Chicago River and a performance at the Apollo Theater.
“Everything is bigger than in Germany and other European countries,” said Max Lauer, 15. “It’s great, but it is windy. It’s interesting to compare the culture, language and especially the lifestyle. I really love the skyline.”
Weekends were spent with their host families experiencing typical teenage-American activities, including visits to Six Flags, bonfire parties, sleep-overs and meeting other New Trier students.
“Parents and students were excited,” Stabinsky said of the German American Partnership Program. “(The students) been telling us this was a good match and they’ll be friends for life.”
To cap off their three-week stay the German students, and the two professors who accompanied them to the United States, were treated to a farewell party Oct. 17, one day before they returned home.
“It’s a beautiful city,” said Raphael Peck, 16. “I like the skyscrapers and Lake Michigan being right next to it. The school here is very, very big. Much bigger than our school. It went by very fast. Some things (back home) I miss, but some things I’d like to stay here for.”
For the second half of the exchange program the German class students of New Trier High School will travel next June to Trier to live with and shadow their former classmates, completing both ends of the experience.