Seventeen exchange students are learning what it is like to be a Hartland High School student for three weeks in an exchange program that involves German teacher Pam Iden’s class.
Starting two weeks ago, seventeen families from Hartland are hosting German students in a program called GAPP or the German American Partnership Program. The program began in the 1970s and was designed to help teach younger generations about other cultures while building „lasting relationships between young people so that we understand and trust each other better,“ according to Iden.
„I believe programs like this teach us how similar we really are,“ Iden said. „People of all countries, languages and cultures want to have a world that is free of war, disease and poverty and full of opportunities to be educated, employed, safe and happy.“
Learning each other’s culture might help teach the young students their similarites, but, but for some students, it was simply a chance to make new friends and have fun.
Hartland High School junior Claire Seekley, who is hosting 16-year-old Sophie Dott, admitted that swapping slang and bad words in each other’s languages has been a favorite pastime for the girls.
„She (Sophie) told us that some of the things that we’ve been saying, over there (Germany) it’s slang and its inappropriate,“ Claire said laughing. „Even our teacher doesn’t know that. So, she’ll (Iden) shorten a word, but over there its slang for bad things.“
For Sophie, the biggest difference she says in attending an American school is the parking lot filled with high school drivers since the legal driving age in Germany is 18.
„Everyone here has a car,“ she said. „And every teenager drives.“
One of Sophie’s favorite things so far has been the food, she said, with her favorites being pizza and rice pudding.
Last week, Sophie and her sixteen companions took a trip to Chicago for spring break.
The students will leave at the end of this week, returning to their homes in Germany. The hosting favor will be returned in June as Hartland students travel to Koblenz, Germany where they will attend school, as it is a year-round school system. They live with their host buddy’s family and travel through parts of Germany.
Claire says she is excited for the experience and also for making a friend that she will continue to have throughout the years.
„Now when she goes back to Germany, we can send each other things,“ Claire said. „Like she (Sophie) wants me to send her Lay’s chips.“
A fundraising event for the Hartland students travelling to Germany takes place this Wednesday at Biggby Coffee from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Biggby will donate $1 for every beverage sold and Kenny Carlsen, a former German student and 2011 Hartland graduate, will perform.