By: Zoe Holzer and Bailey Keck
Germany, a country in the heart of Europe, has a population of roughly 83 million people. German is a four year language course here at College Park which includes an advanced placement class. German exchange students came to College Park on March 14, and stayed for two weeks, through the German American Partnership Program.
GAPP has an emphasis on understanding German culture, which differs greatly from American culture- as expected from a country 9,000 miles to the east of San Francisco. The high school exchange program, which includes trips to San Francisco, Berlin, and Munich, is also geared towards building pathways of understanding between the two countries.
Frau Otus, the sole German teacher at College Park, commented that “we are proud to have been recognized by the US State Department for our commitment to citizen diplomacy for our participation in GAPP.”
The German students answered some questions a week into their stay here about some of the differences they have observed between the American and German cultures.
When asked about their initial perception of America, the German students’ responses varied in positivity. Michael Kraft was amazed by the apparent openness of College Park students towards the group of Germans.
“How I imagined America is I think the people here are more friendly than Germany. Here at the school a lot of people come to us and ask us questions. In Germany a lot of people don’t come up and ask them things,” Kraft said.
Max Kessler had a similar response.
“People are way more open-minded and are interested in us. Everybody is kind of focused on us.”
When asked what school is like in Germany, clear differences emerged between the American and German schooling systems. Elisabeth Mezencev noted how much larger classes are in America, as well as the fact that P.E classes are required every year, and how they are divided between gender until 10th grade.
Lars Mai responded that “the school is different. You are more free to do what you want.” He added that in Germany they “don’t have photography or lessons like that.”
In German high schools, students have less available subjects and more periods.
In addition, Lars summarized that his country is “more strict. We cannot pull out our phones. If you do, the phone will be taken and parents have to pick it up. I also saw people just standing up and walking around the class without permission. You cannot do that in Germany. We don’t have different schedules on different days.”
The refugee crisis in Germany has been big news throughout the world as destabilized countries such as Syria are unable to take care of their citizens.
Lisa Niederberger, Elizabeth Mezencev, and Louise Schock all said that the refugee crisis taking place in Europe has affected their lives significantly. Mezencev was originally accepting of the refugees, but eventually their entry into Germany became so numerous that she and her friends were no longer allowed to go out to the city. Schock explained that things can be dangerous because of the language gaps and the communication issues.
Niederberger explained that the sheer number of refugees is overwhelming and as a result, poor people originally from their country are having their resources pooled unjustly to the new refugees.
The German students finally reflected on the highlights of their trip to the US.
Mai found the malls particularly interesting, commenting that he “really likes San Francisco and the malls” because “the one in San Francisco was so big.”
Kraft, on the other hand, took notice of the athletics here at CP and elsewhere.
“In San Francisco the Giants stadium was nice and two days ago I was with my host at his football training. The weights class with Coach Keck was very nice.”
Paul Zimmermann commented that one of his favourite parts of the trip was seeing, “the views over Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.”
The German American Partnership Program was successful in allowing students at College Park to meet and learn from students of another cultural background. Our students are excited to visit Germany themselves soon as another part of this program.