On April 4th, in the middle of the night, our group of 19 students and our two chaperones, Mrs Brenjo and Mrs Mondine, started our journey to the United States of America, where we spent the next 25 days.
High school in America is different from Gymnasium in Germany. While it is not exactly like in “High School Musical”, we found that many clichés about American high schools are still true. The timetables of our hosts are busier than ours. They go to school from 7:25am to 2:15 pm with only one break in between. Many of our hosts take part in extra-curricular activities so they stay even longer.
After we gained some insight into the American school system, we were ready to explore our surroundings. On our first day out, we went on a guided tour of Newtown. The following day, in the evening, our host families welcomed us with a great banquet at Council Rock High School. To entertain our host families, we had prepared some speeches, quizzes, and even dances, all of which we performed that evening. The welcoming dinner was also a good occasion to come together and get to know each other and thank all the teachers and families involved in the exchange.
Two days after the banquet, we were on our way to Philadelphia, where we saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and many other historic places, including Reading Terminal Market, where we had the best donuts ever.
As interesting as our trip to Philadelphia was, it could of course not compete with the two highlights of our exchange, which were our 3-day trip to Washington D.C. and our 5-day trip to New York City. Spending time in two of the most famous cities of the US not only taught us where to look for the best burgers in town, but also a lot about American history. On the trip we visited the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial, the White House, the Capitol, the United Nations HQ, and many other interesting places.
We spent the remaining days going to the amusement park “Six Flags”, visiting the Amish in Lancaster County, watching a baseball game, or just spending time with friends and our host families. The experience of living with an American host family and going to school with American students was very enriching for all of us, and I am sure it changed the preconceptions that many of us had about America and Americans. Moreover, some of us may have realized for the first time how different German culture can seem to foreigners.
When we left the United States on April 20th, a lot of tears were shed and many of us would have liked to stay for another month, but unfortunately this was not possible. During our stay, many of us became close friends with our hosts, and I am sure that many of us will keep in touch and return to the US one day. It was an incredible experience for all of us, and we really hope our exchange partners can come and visit us here in Ulm. We thank our teachers for the work they put into this exchange and we hope that others will benefit from this programme for many more years to come.
By Joshua Tritsch