A group of German exchange students made the most of their three weeks in Alberta, shopping at the West Edmonton Mall, taking in a Stampeders game and touring through the province’s central region.
The group, hosted by students and families from William E. Hay Composite School, arrived on Sept. 25 and was scheduled to return to Germany on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
“They’ve had a pretty jam-packed schedule,” said the school’s principal, Norbert Baharally, adding that the students’ host families also took them on trips when the larger group wasn’t planning anything.
The students had plans to go paintballing and visit the corn maze in Lacombe on Saturday, wrapping up their trip with a potluck supper on Tuesday before departing from Calgary on Wednesday.
The group of 14 students, mostly in grades 10 and 11, came from Sanitz, a smaller municipality in the Rostock district in northeast Germany.
Baharally said the two communities have done several such exchanges, and that families on both sides have been able to send multiple siblings on the exchange over the years.
During their three weeks in Alberta, the students observed plenty of differences, from meals and the weather to the wide-open spaces and vehicles on the road.
Germans usually eat a hot, larger meal at midday, while the evening meal is more modest, said Baharally.
Sven Tiedemann observed that at William E. Hay, the students will cover all of the semester’s subjects in one day, while at their school in Sanitz, the subjects are spread throughout the week.
“And our school has no wi-fi,” he added. “We’re (technologically) on a lower level.”
The students in Sanitz are required to study two foreign languages, one of which must be English. (For the second, they can choose between French, Spanish and Latin.)
As a result they had little trouble communicating in Stettler, although they were tripped up by the occasional unfamiliar word or phrase, such as “toque.”
Dominik Pfeiffer said students in Sanitz have fewer opportunities to play sports at school, while Victoria Holtz said she was surprised at how “vast and spread out” everything is.
One of the students, upon arriving at the Calgary airport, quickly asked her host family, “Where are all the trees?”
The exchange students also said they were surprised at the number of pick-up trucks on the road, and by how many William E. Hay students drive themselves to school.
In Germany, teenagers can’t start driving until they turn 18, and high school students mostly ride on crowded busses.
The Stettler host students also had some surprises. Sara Lovell said she was impressed by how polite, respectful and prompt the German boys were, in comparison to their Canadian counterparts.
“At our school, they’re kind of little, dirty rascals,” she joked, adding that the boys from Germany were also “all very clean.”
“I was shocked at how much we actually have in common,” said Ally Zitaruk, observing that the Germans are largely into the same (mostly American) music, movies and entertainment.
A group of nine students from William E. Hay is expected to visit Sanitz in the spring, accompanied by Baharally.