Foreign Exchange Students Arrive from Germany


Phil Reidy

The German and American students meet at Logan Airport. (Photo/Phil Reidy)

Walpole High is once again being graced by the presence of German students for the Walpole High School-Sebastian Munster Gymnasium exchange program. Being the fourth exchange, the school has hosted the Deutschen Studenten a few times before, the first time being in 2006. Two American students are making a second trip to Germany again, to the town of Ingelheim am Rhein (Ingelheim on the Rhine) this February, Laura Drinan and Phil Reidy, both seniors, who made the trip over in the previous exchange of 2010-2011. Mrs. Elizabeth Pierce, Walpole High’s German teacher, will be making the trip again as well as Ms. Lara Fasolino.  The program is hosting nineteen German students and sending over eighteen Americans.

The German students in America will be following their exchange partners through their daily schedules, be eating lunch with them, and be going home with them to their houses and their lives outside of school after the day is over.

Their first week is marked by average schooldays in the life of the Walpole High School-goer, where exchange partners might experience after-school practices and the other assorted programs the high school hosts. During the second week, the German exchange students will be visiting New York and will be staying in a youth hostel for four days. During the third week, the exchange students return to their American hosts for another week of school and the American student experience.

“Everything’s bigger and everywhere there’s fast food. I like the lifestyle, how everything looks and how everything works over here. It’s been very interesting so far” said sixteen year-old Daniel Thevessen, the younger sibling of a previous German exchange student and a first time exchange student himself. Frau Mirja Geissler and Frau Rita Weber, the two teachers accompanying the German students to America, have found America to be quite a contrast to their German homeland as well. “Everything is a lot slower and quieter. It’s nice.” said Frau Geissler, an English and French teacher in Ingelheim. Frau Weber is also an English and French teacher, and has organized the exchange since its beginning in 2006.

Second-time American exchange student Laura Drinan, a senior, said “It’s so cool being able to meet people who have lived their entire lives in a foreign culture and country. And being able to see how they do things and their experience as a people is awesome. It’s a very enlightening experience.”

And it will be indeed. Over the next three weeks, Germans will experience the American way, and in February, the American students will see a nation far different than the United States most of them have known for their entire lives. At a time when the two countries face crucial political decisions and times riddled with international economic turmoil, this exchange really does fall on a strange and confusing time and an even more uncertain future. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, currently holds office in a country that’s banks have managed to hold the Greek economy above the breaking point for some time since the dawn of the Eurozone crisis. At home, America has one of the most important presidential elections of our time.

Since John F. Kennedy uttered his famous words “Ich bin ein Berliner!” in 1963, Americans have seen the story of Germany unfold as one of struggle, but, ultimately, success. And so American students will be visiting this country in February, to see and experience the Deutsche Stadt.