Atlantic Ocean no barrier for learning

First part of GAPP exchange a success


photo provided by Patty Derbyshire-Kean

TJ students welcome German exchange students at Charlotte Douglas International Airport September 20.

Ariel Akuneme and Alexis Blanton

“I keep saying that I am infected by a virus.” Ingrid Pool says. “First of all it’s a lot of work, but whenever I’ve done it again I think ‘okay this was so great.’” Ingrid Pool was describing the experience of working with GAPP, or the German American Partnership Program.  GAPP is a part of the the Goethe-Institut, which is dedicated to helping people learn and study German Culture.

“I was an exchange student myself and I know what an enriching experience it is for young people.” TJCA German teacher Petra  Harrelson said. Harrelson arranged the exchange with the Speyer school.

Cole Powell, who hosted an exchange student, says “I’ve learned so much from Paul (Betsch);  he has taught me so much about German culture.”

The program is a reciprocal exchange: the people that host the exchange students will get to go to Germany over the summer to visit Thomas Jefferson’s partner school Friedrich-Magnus-Schwerd-Gymnasium in Speyer, Germany for three weeks.

Dennis Kean describes his experience as “fun and enlightening… We [German exchange student Lara Heiter] went to the county fair, and she was very interested in the food.”

In seeing new places, trying new things, and meeting new people, our exchange students had a great time exploring new opportunities that the GAPP program has to offer.

German participants Hannah Kirchner and Marco Steiger said they love America and that they had a great time. Both say they loved staying with their host families and sharing new experiences with them.

Kirchner loves spending time with her new friends, especially her exchange partner.  “I love my exchange partner Bella. I wouldn’t want my host to be anyone else,” Hannah said.

“My favorite thing I have done is going to the Panthers game with Bryson, Eric, and Konstantine,” Steiger said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Steiger wasn’t the only one who loved the home football game. While here in America, Kirchner has enjoyed going shopping as well as going to the football game.

Not only did students learn during this exchange, teachers were able to learn from their German counterparts as well. German teachers Mattias Schulz and Ingrid Pohl observed classes and even spent time in the TJ lunchroom during their three weeks here.  TJ teacher Matthew Daigle said that he was surprised to learn that in Germany there were bicycle superstores; while German exchange teacher Matthias Schulz was surprised by the way guns were sold.

“That was for us Germans a really big shock… I didn’t expect so many guns,” Schulz explained.

Pohl was surprised by how well kept the front yards are in the South: “there are other parts in the West where you don’t see these nice houses… Downtown Forest City looks like they try very hard to make a visitor feel welcomed.”

The group of exchange students and their teachers will spend the rest of the week in New York before traveling to Speyer and returning to school Monday.

TJ students who will travel to Germany over the summer are seniors Kristen Husen, Yancey McMurray and Levi Zimmer, as well as juniors Cole Powell, David Borders, Dennis Kean, Eric Harrelson, Sydney Kinter, Mitchell Martin, Bella Gray, Elijah Poe, Windham Teddy, Lilly Chadwick, Bryson Smith, Abby Waters and Grace Whittemore.