Leonie Fuster, a German exchange student visiting HHS the past few weeks, had a quick answer when asked what she missed most about home.
Without hesitation, she replied, “the bread,” and her five classmates from Germany laughed and agreed.
It won’t be long before the students and their chaperon, teacher Tina Dietrich, are reacquainted with the thick, crusty bread of Ingelheim, a city of about 25,000, 30 miles west of Frankfurt: Their last day at HHS is Friday (March 8), and they depart for home Saturday.
It has been a whirlwind for the teens, who spent a few days in Atlanta before arriving in Hendersonville for three-and-a-half weeks. Each student had an exchange partner from HHS who served as host family; in turn, six HHS students will stay with the German students’ families when they visit Ingelheim in May.
The German students ate American food, watched American sports, shopped at American stores, visited American museums, and hung out with American teens.
Their conclusion? Americans and Germans aren’t all that different.
“All the people are very friendly to us and are happy to see us and ask us a lot of questions,” Clara Mazurek told The Ville News last week. “It’s cool.”
Clara said American products, movies and music are popular in Germany, so the culture shock isn’t as great as one might imagine.
“I think every German teenager wants to go to the U.S. once,” she said. “This is a great experience for us.”
But not everything about America is familiar. Jonathan Knewitz observed that “everything here is bigger” – the schools, the highways, the supermarkets. And, he added, “what we would consider a long drive is nothing for you.”
There are other differences, too. Most teens in Ingelheim don’t own a car; they ride bikes or use public transportation. Churches are more plentiful in America than in Germany, as are fast food restaurants. And the drinking age for beer and wine in Ingelheim is only 16.
Of course, there’s also the language barrier. Even though German students study English in school, there’s a big gap between what they hear in their classrooms and what they hear in our towns and cities, where native speakers often run their words together and talk really fast.
“Even for me as a teacher, it’s sometimes hard to catch the words,” said Mrs. Dietrich, who shared a story about watching a lacrosse game here and hearing someone shout “Watch the rabbit!” when they were actually shouting “Watch 11!”
“But you get used to it,” she said of the language divide. “Living with a host family helps a lot.”
Despite the differences, she and the German students discovered in Hendersonville what the six HHS students – Charlotte Bishop, Sebastian Bishop, Isabella Bolen, Tony Heerdt, Alexa Janesh and Emma Sneed – will likely discover in Ingelheim: It really is a small world in a lot of ways.
Story by The Ville News staff