From Berlin to Crozet

Sophie Creager-Roberts, Managing Editor

For two and a half weeks, 17 students from the Paulsen Gymnasium (High School) in Berlin, Germany, stayed with host families of Western students to experience life as an American student. 

One of the hosts, junior Nathaniel Salomon, explained the program’s foundations at Western.

“Mr. Broderson has been doing this for seven years. They organize it through the German American Partnership so if you have a certain number of school days they will fund your trip to experience the other country’s education system,” Salomon said. 

Western’s German exchange program has even deeper roots as one of the teachers accompanying the students, one of the teachers accompanying the students on their trip, Ms. Van Rinsum, explained. 

“Actually, I taught German here from ‘88 to ‘89. I switched places with the German teacher and since then, having the exchange was our idea. I was here almost every other year since 1990,” she said. 

In order for German students to initiate their involvement with the program, they had to apply, complete the appropriate forms, and make sure there were enough host families once they arrived in America. 

For many students, this was their first time in the United States and hoped to use the trip to improve their English as well as experience life beyond Europe. 

When asked about similarities and differences between the education systems in the two countries, Janna Sagolla explained the surprisingly relaxed feel of Western. 

“In Germany the participation is more [important] so everyone tries to be quiet and participate and here it seems that the tests are the main part of the grade which is why everyone is really casual and relaxed and on their phones,” Sagolla said. 

A part from the differences academically, the students also raved about Western’s abundant school facilities such as our library, gym, and sports fields which contrast the public library computer from “from the 1900s.”  

Ms. Manke, the other chaperoning educator, also noted that students “have similar problems to what our students have to face and challenge. I think the difference is rather in terms of how the lesson procedure is created and therefore, your behavior is very different from what we expect from our students.” 

While in Charlottesville, students have taken trips to the Downtown Mall where they tried the delicacies of Citizen Burger and the novelty of the Tom Tom Festival. Some students visited more local attractions such as Toddsberry and Ivy Store to get a taste of Crozet favorites.

On Monday, April 29th, the exchange students had their last day at Western and headed off to D.C. before they flew back to Germany.