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German Exchange Students immersed in T-bolt culture

Navy Pier, Indiana Dunes, Willis Tower, and Millennium Park are just a few of the sites on the itinerary for 16 German exchange students and their teachers visiting Victor J. Andrew High School this month. Pumpkin carving, a haunted house, and football games, not to mention a play and a choir concert are also components of the trip.


However, the exchange goes far beyond sightseeing. Students are immersed in American culture; they live with host families, attend school, and take part in everyday life as a teenager. 


While carving a pumpkin, German student Joshua Seitz said, “This trip has been amazing. I was lucky enough to see my favorite band, visit a skyscraper and a haunted house, which was very terrifying.” When asked about the differences between America and Germany, he noted that the houses and neighborhoods are bigger, all the streets look the same, public transportation is confusing, and the fact that students attend the same classes every day is different from school in Germany. “I cannot wait to come back,” he added.


Victor J. Andrew High School and the Wolfgang-Ernst Gymnasium in Büdingen have been taking part in a student exchange program since 2012. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of regularly making these exchanges. 


Andrew High School German teacher Erika Lupacchino said, “The connections these students make with one another make this experience truly exceptional. Sure, they take field trips to exciting places, but more importantly, they have to get out of their comfort zones and make themselves understood. Their communication skills are really put to the test. That’s where the real learning takes place.” 


German student Emelie Wiegel said, “I love it here!  My host family is so nice; they treat me like a princess!” Her host student Andrew senior Sarah Murray said, “Emelie is welcome to come back anytime. All the students are willing to try anything and they couldn’t be any nicer.”


Lupacchino noted that it is not unusual for student pairs to visit one another well beyond their high school exchange. In fact, the German teacher chaperoning the trip hosted a student more than a decade ago and made a point to visit him this week. 


Andrew students learn from their German counterparts as well. The German students made presentations on various topics of German life and culture to all language students.