The German Exchange in State High

German exchange students stand their American hosts in the State High hub. Photo courtesy of Richard Polka.
German exchange students stand their American hosts in the State High hub. Photo courtesy of Richard Polka.
Richard Polka

A German Exchange Program was held in State High with German students coming to State College.

The German exchange is a school-to-school exchange between State College High School and the Helena-Lange-Schule in Hannover, Germany. Since 1988, the exchange has been continuously held for 35 years.

”I’ve been involved since 2017.” Richard Polka, State High German teacher and exchange organizer, said. “When [the exchange students] come, I plan different trips for them.”

This year, the students had day trips to Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Niagara Falls and an additional two days in New York City. Locally, they visited Penn’s Cave, an Amish farm, Bellefonte and took a tour of Beaver Stadium.

The purpose of the exchange was to give the students a chance to experience the culture of another country.

“They stay with host families. So they get to see what family life is like in the country, and they get to experience things that they don’t necessarily see everyday,” Polka said.

For housing, most of the exchange students stayed with State High students and their families. The host families were responsible for dropping and picking up the students from school as well as trips.

Students Tina Bastan and Liz Beavers enjoyed visiting State High.

“People here are so nice and the school is a lot bigger–I really liked the people,” Bastan said. “They greet you even if you never met them in your life!”

“Everybody gets compliments, which is so different,” Beavers said.

While they enjoyed much of America, Beavers and Bastan both agreed that they missed the food back home.

“My favorite is potatoes with white asparagus,” Beavers said. “I think the food here is very oily and fatty.”

In addition to that, freshman exchange student Mina Kappe felt that there were distinct differences between American and German school systems.

“Every class has their own teacher in Germany — the class has their own room and they normally don’t exchange rooms unless it’s the special subjects like physics,” Kappe said.

Schools entail a more strict management in Germany.

“We are not friends with our teachers. They are the teachers and we are the students. Here, the teachers are more like friends,”Kappe said.

But one thing that each student absolutely loved about the exchange was experiencing the individualism of each student in State High.

“In [State High], everyone has their own style. In Germany, they all wear similar clothes–it’s refreshing,” Kappe said.

This year’s annual German exchange encouraged the students to find cultural enrichment through the exposure to the different customs of State College.

“My favorite part is watching the students experience things for the first time because it’s amazing to see them grow. It’s really fun for me,” Polka said.

In the end, the students enjoyed their stay in State College. From making long lasting friendships to broadening global perspectives, the exchange was a way for personal growth and development. More than anything, the students learned more about the world outside of Germany, leading to an outcome of cultural appreciation and cooperation.

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