German Exchange Weathers Fire Danger


Erika Riedel, Business Editor

Exchange students from Heidelberg, Germany learned what American high schools are like in the midst of unusual circumstances on October 24 and 25.  The foreign visitors shadowed host students on campus over the 2 days, just as the bay area was experiencing extreme fire danger due to high winds.

After 1st touring San Francisco, the group of 16 German students spent 10 days with host families of students from Stanley Middle School. For the final 2 days of their visit the Germans were paired with students in the German language course at Campolindo.

Prior to their visit to campus the exchange students also toured UC Berkeley’s German department, the Lafayette Historical Society, and the Lafayette Cemetery.

Stanley Middle School’s German teacher Claudia Windfuhr noted that this year’s exchange was impacted by the “extreme weather” and “fires and looming power outages.” As a result, she is considering changing the dates of the exchange so that they do not coincide with what has become a more problematic California fire season.

In spite of the unusual circumstances, both visitors and hosts enjoyed share their respective cultures.

Junior Victoria Perry, who hosted a German student on campus, saw the experience as very “eye-opening” and as a “great way for Campo students to be exposed to more cultures than just their own.”

1 aspect of the program that Perry particularly enjoyed was that it was high school-aged students doing the shadowing. “Learning about Germany in class can only go so far, but by being able to talk to someone from Germany who is my age made it much easier for me to grasp the differences between the countries,” said Perry.

German teacher David Blumberg agreed. “They get to interact with kids their age so they get to experience German culture from a different perspective besides mine. It is a more direct experience of German culture than what I can give in class,” he said.

Heidelberg student Johanna Mehnert’s trip to America not only improved her English speaking skills but also helped her to realize that “Americans are actually really friendly” and that “a different way of living isn’t necessarily a bad thing”.

Mehnert said that the trip “connected people all across the world.”

“Speaking with teenagers from Europe is just such a great experience. Try out your German language, find out what they do, what they do differently, what you have in common. Mutual understanding promotes peace and makes the world a better place,” said Windfuhr.

This exchange is reciprocated every 2 years as Blumberg leads a summer trip to Germany in which the roles are reversed as his language students are hosted by Heidelberg families.

Integrating high school students into other cultures is “1 of the most valuable and worthwhile opportunities,” according to Perry.