German Exchange Students Experience Big Changes


German exchange student Alina Bas

Fourteen students from Germany have had the chance to spend three weeks here as part of an exchange program, shadowing BASH German students during classes.

If you haven’t noticed them, it might be because they are very quiet, experiencing a bit of a culture shock as they try to adjust to the American education system.

“Their school is a lot different than ours,” said German Teacher Mrs. Caitlin Rothenberger, who helped organize the exchange.  “First of all, it’s smaller, at least by 500-600 people. Usually at a German school you’re in one class. You are with the same 24 to 25 students all day. Your teachers come in and out of the room when it is time for them to teach their lesson.”

Students also go out for lunch everyday, and classes are fewer and longer, with 20-minute breaks in between, Mrs. Rothenberger said. Also, the atmosphere is much  more laid back, with students allowed to leave any time they want. And, if the teacher doesn’t show up, class is canceled.

“They have bigger variations in their schedules,” Mrs. Rothenberger said. “To have to ask permission to do everything is very different.”

German Student Alina Bas said the longer days with shorter breaks have been a big adjustment.

“In Germany, you have a class and then a twenty minute break. A class, and then a twenty minute break. Here you only get three!” she said.

Bas and the others are living with the families of the student sponsors as part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP), which supports school partnerships and exchanges between high schools in the United States and secondary schools in Germany.

In addition to going to school every day, the students take in local sites. They will also be spending some time in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Washington D.C.

“I am most looking forward to going to the King of Prussia mall,” Alina said.

German student Sarah Stauten joined the GAPP program to witness the culture. She finds it interesting how different, yet similar, the two cultures are.

“The main difference is the food. Here it is not as fresh or healthy,” Sarah said.

In June, the BASH sponsor students will be able to have the same experience as the Germans. The students, including Junior Lauren Moyer, will be living with the Germans in Bergheim, which is a small city right outside of Cologne.

“I’ll also be traveling to Berlin and Munich!” Lauren said.