Every two years, Spring Lake Park High School and Gabriele-von-Bülow, a school in Berlin, Germany, participate in a cultural exchange.
This month, 18 German students and two of their teachers traveled to Spring Lake Park for two weeks, and this summer, Spring Lake Park High School students will take their turn, flying to Germany to reunite with the same students.
“We can only teach so much English,” said Peter Germershausen, one of the teachers accompanying Gabriele-von-Bülow students this year. “The first-hand experience cannot be replaced.”
German students arrived in Minnesota Oct. 10 and stayed with host families in the Spring Lake Park School District for most of the trip.
The students headed north to Duluth for three days, a highlight for student Max Braun.
“I think my favorite experience so far was visiting Duluth, seeing the impressive landscape,” he said.
Gabriele-von-Bülow students shadowed Spring Lake Park High School students Oct. 19 and then gave presentations to German and social studies classes the following day.
Students shared in English about their life back home, presenting on what food, free time, music, school, sights and sports are like in Berlin.
In Dan Buck’s first-period German class Oct. 20, three pairs of Gabriele-von-Bülow students presented.
Braun and Konstantin Kindermann spoke about Berlin sights, including the Reichstag building, Berlin Victory Column, Fernsehturm and German Chancellery.
Melina Lietz and Tasja Pape shared about German food, highlighting the country’s affinity for sausage. There are more than 1,500 kinds of sausage in Germany, the girls reported.
Lietz delighted Spring Lake Park High School students by pulling German chocolate from her backpack for students to sample.
“I think I gained about 3 pounds watching that presentation,” Buck said, studying the chocolate.
Paula Kalisch and Lidia Yalew presented on how they spend their free time and how the Spring Lake Park students might when they visit.
Black and white photo booths are popping up around the city, Kalisch said.
At the end of the class period, Spring Lake Park students had the opportunity to ask their German peers questions.
Noting the Gabriele-von-Bülow students’ polished English, students wanted to know how long they had been studying the language. Many have been learning English for about a decade, they said.
“Think if you would have started learning German in third grade where we would be,” Buck said.
Classes, lunch and sports are all run differently in Germany, students reported.
Public transportation is a big difference between Berlin and the Twin Cities, Kalisch said.
“It’s a lot more widespread here,” she said. In Berlin, cars are much less common with extensive public transportation, and she herself has no desire to own a car as long as she is living and working in the city.
Students were slated to leave for Chicago Oct. 22 where they would spend a couple of days before flying home to Germany.
The exchange program is special, Germershausen said. It allows for “a variety of extra programs, … all kinds of things that tourists would never (encounter),” he said.