NISKAYUNA- Shouts, hugs, and a variety of handshakes greeted twenty German exchange students when they first arrived at Niskayuna High School on Friday, Sept. 23.
“When they leave us, there will be tears,” Joseph Carosella a german teacher at Niskayuna high school said.
The exchange program between Freiherr-vom-stein-Gymnasium-Hamm and Niskayuna high school has been running every two years since 1998. Students from German, usually a group of around 20, spend two weeks in the spring in the United States and then in the spring around 20 American students will head out to visit Germany.
“It’s such a life-changing event for students,” Carosella said.
Beyond improving the language skills of both the American students and the German students, they form bonds that can hold throughout their lives.
One former student who had participated in the program, emailed Carosella to tell him that the German student he hosted is now the godfather of his child because they remained close friends even after the program was over.
During an interview with the students, they already seemed to have formed inside jokes and new handshakes.
“When I first came to America, I thought it was a lot like the movies,” Sophie Schackel, one of the German exchange students said.
For the majority of the German students, it was their first time traveling to the United States.
“Your shopping markets are so big- they go on forever,” remarked Dana Vohringer, a German student.
Others found that the school day was much longer and were surprised by how long students spend on after school clubs/sports and homework.
“We have homework for maybe one or two hours sometimes,” Arved Pietrzcak said.
But American students laughed at that and said they often spend three hours on homework every night.
During the first weekend of the German student’s visit, the group went on a camping trip to Dippikill Wilderness Retreat in the Adirondacks.
“We really bonded there. I’ve only known these guys for a few days but it doesn’t feel like that,” Leon Baronck said, with the supportive shouts of the other students.
They’ve also been trying to pick up some everyday slang terms they wouldn’t have learned from a textbook or even in the classroom.
“It’s good because we’ll speak German and to them and they’ll answer in English so we both get to practice,” Devin Wood said.
Throughout the week, the German students attended Niskayuna high school classes with their host students and over the weekend they’ll be spending time with their host families either taking trips out to Boston, to see a Yankees game, or staying local.
The German exchange students will also be touring Albany and Washington D.C. before they leave on Oct. 17.
But it will only be good-bye for a few months, until the Niskayuna students who hosted will be heading to visit Hamm, Germany.
“When they say good-bye in week or so, there will be tears but not as bad as when the Niskayuna students have to leave Germany in April,” Carosella said.