A group of 24 Batesville High School students had the unique opportunity to experience another culture while traveling this summer.
Adam Bedel, Ciera Belter, Riley Callahan, Kyler Daulton, Tabitha Drew, Camille Farwick, Braiden Foster, Corbin Fulkerson, Victoria Gaynor, Pierce Herbert, Alexander Hoffbauer, Caroline Kellerman, Ryan Krohn, Wesley Krohn, Charlie Laymon, Alex Livers, Ainsley Phipps, Skylar Simpson, Grant Story, Will Story, Devin Suffridge, Laura Vest, Seth Weisenbach and Casey Werner, along with two chaperones, German teacher Andrew Cambron and engineering teacher Craig Hughes, participated in the German American Partnership Program, spending three weeks in Germany.
This program “has been around since 1972 and is made up of around 800 school exchanges,” Cambron points out. “GAPP is the largest and most successful bilateral student exchange program of the U.S. with any other country. It is unique in that it is one of the few programs based on long-term, sustainable partnerships between students, teachers, administrators, schools and communities.”
Each BHS student was matched with a German teen and stayed with his or her family. Next spring those German youth will visit southeastern Indiana and stay with the BHS families. The dates are tentatively scheduled for April 1-20, 2020.
Why would they travel to the European country?
Livers reveals, “I really thought it would be a lot of fun, a chance to better my German and an opportunity to learn about a different culture.”
Likewise, Farwick announces, “I wanted to learn more about the German … language and see what a normal day for a German high school student was like.”
The educator says, “I hope students came away from the trip with the feeling that they were able to connect with people on the other side of the globe and understand them. I hope that they learned to take delight in embracing cultural differences and, above all, I hope they returned to their community with a broader perspective and a global mindset.”
According to some of the world travelers, this is exactly what happened.
Laymon emphasizes, “I feel like a lot of people who leave the country for the first time expect any new culture they encounter to be completely different, like a new world, but it really wasn’t this way for me when I experienced the German culture.
“Some of the major differences I noticed were that the Germans don’t use air conditioning in their homes or put ice in their drinks. The meals were also different, but definitely not bad. Bread is a major staple in their society. I rarely ate a meal that didn’t include some bread from the local bakery. I even had a campfire snack called stockbrot, where you wrap dough around a stick and bake it over a fire.
“The similarities between our cultures were also present, though. We always ate three meals a day, most of them with the family. The Germans also like to listen to English music as well.”
Ryan Krohn notes, “What differentiates Germans from Americans are more subtle things, how they dress in public, their quality of food, their avid use of public transportation. They have a somewhat different way of thinking; not all too different from us.”
Farwick adds, “In my opinion, the families reminded me a lot of Midwesterners. They are so inviting and always make sure everyone has more than plenty to eat …. (However), they were more reserved as a whole and kept to themselves more. They also function on a very time-oriented schedule and like to use their time very efficiently.”
“The most beneficial thing I learned from this trip is how to be respectful of other cultures. Some things we experienced ... were very foreign to us, and I think everyone did a fantastic job of respecting these differences and learning from them.”
Foster reports, “A similarity between American and German schools is the classroom culture, where there are lots of jokes and fun moments with teachers.”
Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean was a great experience for the teens.
“Some of the highlights of my trip were our group excursions, the casual train rides and our long evening dinners,” Krohn recalls. “Munich was a fantastic closing to a totally radical trip. I especially enjoyed the castle visits and the beautiful landscapes. The fireworks and ice cream were spectacular as well.”
Farwick observes, “I think a big benefit of going to Europe is that you can go to many different countries in a short span of time. During our trip, I visited Switzerland once and Austria twice, and it was an easy travel to both destinations. Getting to experience different countries in addition to Germany was a real treat. Another highlight of the trip was visiting the Zeppelin Museum. It was interesting to learn more about the history and uses of zeppelins.”
Foster stresses, “The trip wasn’t always about the big things … but the little things, like shopping in a small German store with my friends, Alex, Jessi and Esther. All the jokes in the little places like that. Those are really the moments that matter in the end.”
The students encourage others to travel and participate in similar programs if possible.
"Traveling to a new country is scary at first,” Farwick maintains, “but learning about different people and cultures makes it all worth it. Even if you aren’t that great at the language or don’t know much about the country, I would tell anyone that they should branch out and experience what’s out there because you never know what awaits you.”
Krohn reports, “Being in a foreign land, especially for the first time, can be a tough experience. Just remember that it can be a fun one as well. Don't be too hard on yourself; live and learn, and always try your best to maintain a positive attitude.”
Laymon notes, “The world is beginning to identify itself as a global community. Businesses are setting up relations in several different countries, exchange programs with different schools are becoming more common and I would even say that people have the opportunity to travel the globe more.
“This being said, it never hurts to make connections and become more culturally aware. After participating in this program and the IUHPFL (Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages) program in Graz, Austria, I am also considering on following the path to becoming a German teacher, so this experience has had a huge impact on my career path.
“If you get the chance, I highly recommend going to a different country and exploring a culture that interests you. Don’t be afraid of the language barrier because English is an international language. The world has so much to offer, so my philosophy is to go out and experience as much as you can with the time you have.”
Livers simply says, “You will have a memorable time.”
Cambron reveals, “Those interested in GAPP or study abroad programs should reach out. The opportunities for students are out there, and I am eager to help more students see the world.
“If you have ideas for activities or events that you would like to have our German guests participate in next April, please get a hold of me.” He can be reached at BHS at 812-934-4384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220114.