They have followed their hosts from classroom to classroom and school to school learning about the nuances of American education and culture.
Eleven German students followed their American peers at Roncalli High School for two weeks, learning about lockers, the amount of classes American high schoolers take and sitting in on them.
After school, they stayed at the home of their American host peers where they ate American foods, such as Steak N’ Shake, stocked up on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and grabbed gear at local malls.
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And in June, the American Roncalli students will visit their German peers at their homes and school in Leipzig.
Roncalli High School has a partnership in the German American Partnership Program with Rudolph-Hildebrand School in Leipzig, Germany.
Students from both schools want to learn about the other’s language and cultures as part of the exchange, students said.
The idea is for Roncalli High School teenagers to see that the world is bigger than they think, Tabitha Zimmermann, German teacher at Roncalli said.
“(I want them) to become global citizens and realize that there is more than American culture,” Zimmermann said.
During the Germans’ two week stay, their favorite part was learning about American culture, two students said.
Germans had picked up some lessons of American culture in their favorite televisions shows and movies, such as “The Vampire Diaries” and “Mean Girls,” and they wanted to see what a typical American high school was like, they said.
“You can try to be an (American) high school student, like in the movies,” said Katharina Lichtenberger, a German student.
Lichtenberger and Laura Hinze, also a German student, found that Roncalli was typical of their picture of an American high school. They marveled at the lockers and the relatively small amount of classes American high schoolers take, compared to the 15 classes German high school students are expected to take, Hinze said.
German students also immersed themselves in extracurriculars, practicing with the volleyball team and doing a cheerleading routine with the squad during Friday night football games. On weekends, they went to museums, saw a Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium and shopped at Greenwood Park Mall, Edinburgh Premium Outlets and Circle Centre Mall.
Hinze noticed that Germans in general seemed to be healthier, she said. Americans drive everywhere and eat fast food. In Leipzig, residents bikes more than they drive, she said.
Family life for Americans was experienced through host families, where each German student was paired with an American student. The visitors followed the life of the American student, staying at their home and following them to their classes daily.
German students found that the daily routines of American families weren’t much different from their own families, Lichtenberger and Hinze said.
“I didn’t feel a big difference,” Lichtenberger said.
And the stereotype some Germans have of Americans being loud and friendly is mostly true, they said.
“Everyone was open-minded and talked to us,” Hinze said.
While experiencing American culture was their No. 1 goal, the goal of bettering their English also pushed them to visit the country, they said.
All German students learn English beginning in fifth grade. English is used in a lot of jobs in Germany, and students must have a solid grasp on English to go to college, Hinze and Lichtenberger said.
“You have to speak English in a lot of different situations (in Germany),” Lichtenberger said.
While in America, the German students taught American students some of their language and culture, too. German students prepared a language lesson for kindergarten students.
The visiting Germans have been learning six years of English, but they learned British English, so their host peers taught them how Americans actually talk, including teaching them some slang words, said Liam Collier, a Roncalli host student.
The German students went home to Leipzig on Friday, although most wanted to stay in America, Hinze said.
“None of the German students want to leave American; we are very sad about it,” she said.
Now, American students are preparing for their trek to Leipzig in June. Students had to study two years of German to be considered for the trip, Zimmermann said.
The goal of the American students is to get engrossed in German culture and to learn that language better, said Meghan Looney, a Roncalli High School student.
“It is one of the most realistic languages to learn in the world,” she said.