German Exchange Students Visit Centennial

Silas+Boventer+%28left%29%2C+Kody+Trelease+%28middle%29%2C+and+friend+Arion+McCondichie+%28right%29+hanging+out+down+the+hall.+Credit%3A+Marjorie+Hsu+
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German Exchange Students Visit Centennial

Silas Boventer (left), Kody Trelease (middle), and friend Arion McCondichie (right) hanging out down the hall. Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Silas Boventer (left), Kody Trelease (middle), and friend Arion McCondichie (right) hanging out down the hall. Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Silas Boventer (left), Kody Trelease (middle), and friend Arion McCondichie (right) hanging out down the hall. Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Silas Boventer (left), Kody Trelease (middle), and friend Arion McCondichie (right) hanging out down the hall. Credit: Marjorie Hsu

Marjorie Hsu, Co-editor in Chief

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Some German students from the city of Essen visited Centennial for a few days and explored sites in Atlanta through our school’s exchange program. They were hosted by Centennial students who take more advanced German. For 10 days, participating students of the program enriched their perspective on cultural differences and language barriers through new friends and a new environment.

 

 A pair of students was senior Kody Trelease and German student Silas Boventer. Boventer said his experience “has been great. I’ve done a lot of things and enjoyed every second. We’ve been to the Mercedes Benz Stadium, and Six Flags fun park.” When asked if anything stands out for him, he said, “Everything is so big. So much bigger than in Europe or Germany.” 

In terms of school he said that compared to Germany, “the building is way larger. And, the lessons are way more chill. So, in Germany, everyone has to listen to the teacher at all times. And, if you’re not listening to the teacher, you may be getting thrown out of the lessons.” 

Boventer said one of the challenges is “there is the language barrier for some specific words. In general, I would say that it works out fine.” Another is missing some parts from home. He added, “We in Germany, we don’t eat as much fast food as you. So, I’ve been struggling a lot with the food. Sometimes, I did not feel as well.”

The group planned field trips to places like the World of Coke, the aquarium, the CNN center, Mercedes Benz Stadium, and The Museum of Civil and Human Rights. Boventer said he was “It’s different than in Germany because here it’s way more up to date. And museums in Germany, from what I’ve seen, aren’t as well equipped.”

As host, Trelease said, “Because he is only here for 10 days, it’s really time consuming to try and show him everything. I’ve been falling behind on homework because we’re going out places, but otherwise it’s pretty fun.” In terms of helping Boventer, Trelease said, “He keeps getting freaked out over regular stuff. There’s been a few times where he’s like ‘They don’t have a lot of muscle cars in Germany.’ So, he gets excited every time we see a Mustang, Camaros, and big trucks because we have so many around here. It’s the little stuff that he keeps on getting excited about and it’s funny.” 

When asked how visiting has expanding his perspective, Boventer said, “From social media, you get to know a lot of American stereotypes. For example, how high schools are like. Or, Hollywood portrays high school as an experience of your own. And, America is all over the world through social media with certain trends, and so on. And, just to see how it really is is pretty exciting.”

 German teacher Ashley McCarty organizes a large part of the program. She said people who are eligible to participate are students who take German, and priority is given to juniors and seniors and those that take AP or Honors. When asked if German I students could go, she said, “Typically no because they don’t know the language enough to be able to participate. Perhaps in rare exceptions I would allow a German I student to host so a German student could stay with them, but they wouldn’t come with us to Germany.”

Besides being able to speak German, McCarty said that a lot of the consideration that goes into accepting someone into the program is “their ability to get along in a group, to follow directions, and for me to trust them to do that because we’ll be traveling in a foreign country, and our school rules still apply. And, if I think they will be able to handle the stress and how uncomfortable it may be at the beginning to be in a foreign household. And, if they can handle that and thrive in that kind of environment.” 

In terms of price, McCarty said, “It really depends. Every time we go it ends up being different. We do a lot of fundraising which helps bring down the costs. But, this year it costs $1,000. Ours is the cheapest of the three exchanges.”

When it comes to organizing the whole program McCarty said, “There is not enough space in the Accolade for me to explain all of the things. But, the first process is selecting the students. They have to fill out an application, and we have to review all of those. I have a counterpart in Germany called Frau Becker, and she’s doing the same on hers. So, the first thing we do is we match students which takes a very long time. Usually, we have to go back and forth multiple times. I think this time before we had everyone matched it was the ninth or tenth attempt.”

She further said, “I tend to look more at the social aspect, and if I think if these two people are socially a good match. And then, Frau Becker, she’s looking at the logistics of it. Is this person afraid of dogs? This family has a large dog so that’s obviously not going to work. These two people happen to be vegan. That would probably be a good match and be easier for them. Beyond that, there’s all this paperwork we have to fill in with the county and school. Lots of stuff has to be arranged from the field trips we do when we’re here to meetings with the parents about everything under the sun that you can possibly imagine.” She also added that although the trip happens every other year, planning also takes as early during the non-exchange year.

Besides planned field trips, McCarty said that the students also end up choosing some of their own fun activities. This year to spice things up, they went to a corn maze and decided to go to Six Flags on their free day. When they visit Germany they also do fun trips such as: visiting the city of Cologne, climb the stairs of Cologne Cathedral, indoor skiing, and more. 

Visiting a foreign country can require time getting used to with all the customs, food, and language. McCarty said that, “So, for the German students, they find school really fascinating. The fact that students have their phones, that they are talking so much. For them, school here seems very chaotic. And if you ask them about it, it feels to them that students are more disrespectful. I know that our students this time noticed a little bit of a cultural thing that the Germans make more eye contact than Americans are used to. I think generally that my students are well prepared and know the culture as it is before we go. But, for sure they learn a lot,” she added.

For parents who worry about their child being overseas, McCarty said she reassures them that she will always be there for any issue. And, that one of the first homework assignments students have when they reach their families home (in Germany) is to contact their parents and let them know how they are. 

Foreign exchange programs are great in overall because they provide an enriching experience for students to learn more about the culture and language they’ve been studying. McCarty said, “Students tend to think of it as a tourist trip, but I would say than an exchange is a much better experience. It’s because a tourist trip doesn’t necessarily push you out of your comfort zone. When you’re staying with a foreign family all by yourself, there are a lot of things that are different. People come to terms with their anxieties with those types of things.”

She further explained that “there’s all sorts of stuff that comes up on exchanges. But, homesickness is one, not being used to the food. I know our students usually tend to complain that Germans tend to primarily drink sparkling water. And, Germans don’t tend to drink tap water very much. And, also getting used to school with the way it is much more regimented and strict than it is here. Students will see that homes tend to be smaller than they are here in Roswell. And, they’ll sort of see that students have more independence there. They come and go as they please. There’s not as much as ‘you need to check in and check out’ school. Like, if a teacher isn’t there, you might not even have class and go across the street to a cafe or something. So, those types of things are really shocking for our students. But, in the reverse the Germans when they come here, they think it’s amazing that our students can drive anywhere on their own because they can’t get their license until they’re 18,” she added.

In spite of many obstacles, the effort is worth the great experience all of them have. McCarty added that one of her favorite parts is that since she’s been interacting with this culture for so long “it’s always nice for me during the exchange to see the culture for the first time again through their eyes.”