German Exchange Aids Intercultural Understanding, Promotes German Language

Ten students from Bremen, Germany arrived in Anchorage for a three week long exchange with the German American Partnership Program on Sunday.

Every year, about 9,000 high school students from Germany and the United States go to their school’s partner school with the goal of experiencing a new culture and meeting friends from across the globe.

Keegan Blaine is hosting Jannik, one of the German exchange students, and said of the experience, “He is really nice and I’ve learned that our personalities are super similar despite growing up countries apart.”

The German American Partnership Program aims to inspire intercultural understanding, promote German language instruction and motivate personal friendships. Even if a school does not have an official German class, they can still apply to be a partner school as long as some German language instruction is given to the school while the exchange students are there.

In Dimond’s case, the German language program is very strong, with many students enrolled in the program. Headed by Charles Beattie, Dimond was partnered with Ökumenisches Gymnasium Zu Bremen in Germany. Dimond and Okumenisches have been partners since 2006, exchanging students every other year.

Beattie has been organizing the exchange since the start of the school year. The students met and reached out to each other via email and Whatsapp about a month ago to get to know each other before they came.

Isis Kzmiezak, one of the German exchange students staying with Kylie Negale, said, “Many of our friends who came two or four years ago told us how great Alaska was and we all really wanted to come.”

Once it was decided who was going, the families were paired up with the determinants allergies, what they have in common and the student’s preferences of a family type (big/small, boys/girls, etcetera).

The groups are usually about 10 to 20 students of about the same age. The students live with their host family and participate in school activities. The minimum length of stay is two weeks, but the 10 students from Germany will be at Dimond for three weeks.

This summer, the students hosting the Germans now will be staying with their exchange student’s family. Only seven of the 10 Dimond students that are hosting will be leaving for Germany.

They will be there for four weeks. The students leave on May 28th.

While in Bremen, the top three activities the students are looking forward to are going to the Emigration Museum, Das Klimahaus (a climate house) and going on a mud flat hike in a national park. They are also going to the place where Martin Luther hid out.

At the Emigration Museum, they will be able to track their relatives to see if they left through German ports.

At Das Klimahaus, they will walk through simulations of places that are on the same longitudinal line as Bremen and experience each one. Gambell, Alaska, happens to be one of the places.

After arriving on Sunday, the students immediately started exploring Alaska. The group travelled to Seward to visit the Sea Life Center and slept overnight there in between the seals and sea birds. While there, they participated in a bioluminescence activity.

They also go to the Alaska Challenger Center where they will do a space simulation for a trip to Mars. They are doing an Alaska Avalanche Escape Room, going to the Anchorage Museum, DNL, the Public Lands Building and going swimming.

At Dimond, Beattie decides their schedules for the day. Most of them are in english, math and art classes among other things.

The students are having a great time and already are sad of the thought of returning home. On the other hand, the Dimond students are highly anticipating their trip even though it is months away.

As Justin Shockey, one of the Dimond students going to Bremen this summer, said, “I am super excited for the adventure ahead!”