“Mind opening,” “experience of a lifetime” and “unforgettable” were some of the terms used to describe the Stettler-Germany educational culture exchange.
Grace Chapman rated her trip to Germany a 10 out of 10.
“It was one of my favourite trips that I have ever done,” she said.
Chapman enjoyed experiencing the day-to-day life of the German culture that the exchange provided, rather than just doing the tourist-type things that most travel involves.
Chapman was among 14 students from William E. Hay Composite High School that participated in the three-week exchange with the northern Germany school, Gymnasium Sanitz.
Other students from Stettler were Nicholas Baharally, Kennidy Fisher, Katherine Fraser, Taylor Marko, Aislinn Reule, Trent Sanders, Dakota Schwarzenberger, Hannah Shepherd, Morgan Sorensen, Amy Stratulate, Morgan VanDusen, Autumn Woelk and Haileigh Yome.
Principal Norbert Baharally accompanied the group as the education supervisor.
It was the fourth exchange between the two schools — the German students were in Stettler in September.
The popular exchange program involves grades 10 and 11 students.
The Stettler students said they experienced a language barrier, as some of the host parents didn’t speak English and school classes were taught in German.
They said they picked up basic German words and phrases.
While in school, they attended English, art and drama classes and spent time in the English room.
Nicholas Baharally said that before they left Stettler, each student prepared a Canadian presentation to give at the German school.
He said the exchange coincided with Easter and spring break, which afforded the Stettler students considerable time for tours and time with their German host families.
The Stettler students were intrigued by the differences between the cultures.
The train system impressed Chapman, as she and two other Stettler students rode the train to school.
Autumn Woelk didn’t share the same sentiments.
She said daily schedules had to be based around public transportation.
The girls described a shopping trip to the German girls’ favourite store that took an hour and required eight train changes.
Morgan Sorensen said he thought the exchange was “really good,” and visiting Berlin was the highlight for him.
He was impressed with how a modern city like Berlin combined culture and integrated its history and older buildings.
Woelk said wartime buildings were refurbished, or those destroyed in the war were rebuilt as close to the original buildings as possible.
The group spent four days in Berlin and took in a tour of the city, watched a musical show, visited Madame Tussaud’s museum, toured the Canadian Embassy and visited historical sites and castles.
The Stettler students also visited a concentration camp at Sachsenhausen — a sombre experience.
“You could still see blood stains on the floor,” Chapman said.
“It was hard to imagine — standing where those terrible things happened,” Woelk said.
The students said the weather wasn’t favourable during the visit, as Germany experienced an unseasonably cold spring.
“It was so cold, a lot colder than Canada,” Woelk said.
Chapman said that two years before, when her sister was in Germany on the exchange, they were able to wear swimsuits and sun tan.
The students shared some thoughts on their visit to Germany.
“The friendships made — during the three weeks we were there and the three weeks the German students were here — was the highlight of the exchange for me,” Baharally said.
“I love Europe,” Chapman said. “I want to live there when I am older.”
She also said she would like to go back and visit the people she met.
Sorensen said he would like to visit West Germany someday, after visiting the east side.
“I had a really good time, but I would like to see Germany in the summertime,” Woelk said.
“It was a great experience,” Baharally said. “I would do it again and recommend it to anyone.
“It’s an exposure to a different culture in a different part of the world.”