German students visit Grove City in exchange program

As most parents would be, Martina Stonerock was very curious when her son Philipp, a junior at Grove City High School, came home one day and excitement about an upcoming event.

Because the end of the year was sor far away, she knew his feelings were not inspired by that momentous occasion so she asked what had caught his interest.

He told his mother th German Clup would be meeting soon to discuss the student exchange program and he wanted to be a part of it. Since participation in the program would include the Stonerock family hosting a German student for three weeks and then allowing their son to stay in Germany for three weeks with a host family , much hesitance followed.

Being a native of Germany, Stonerock had always encouraged her children to take an active interest in learning about their roots, but she wondered whether Philipp’s idea might be taking it too far.

Sensing a defeat, he encouraged his parents to attend th meeting so they could learn more about the program. They did and were  sold on the idea.

„Then there was no turning back because we had already paid the money for it,“ Stonerock said with a laugh.

She said that the opportunity this program presented to her children (daughter Toni will go next year) was too good to turn down.

„I hope that they can learn the language  through this experience and make a lifelong friendship in the process,“ she said.

On June 11, Philipp and 14 additional Grove City High School students will be leaving for their three-week stay in Europe. During their first four days there, chaperone and Grove City High School teacher Wiliam Kuhrt will guide them on tours of Munich, Austria, the Neuschwanstein castle and the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. After their „open days“ are over, the students will travel to Heidenheim, Germany where they will live with a host family (typically the parents of the student they hosted) and attend school at Max Planck Gymnasium.

But before they can begin their adventures in a new county, they hosted the German students who were looking for their own.

On May 1, they welcomed the 16 students from Heidenheim who had made their way to the country – most for the first time.

A majority of the host and exchange students had struck up a friendship through social media sites so there was some ease during their initial acquaintance. Still, life in a different county – even for just three weeks – can be a difficult adjustment.

Some of the German students found it challenging to operate different shower nozzles while others struggled to pay attention in class. Some are stronger English speakers than others are, but they all said this exchange program wa an opportuntiy they did not want to miss.

„My sister was in the program a few years ago and told me it was great so I wanted to try it for myself,“ said 16-year-old Alex Bretzger.

He said what he hoped to learn during his time here was an understanding of the language.

„I would like to speak better English,“ he said.

With unofficial trips (meaning host familiy decisions rather than scheduled events) to the movies („Iron Man 3“ was on the agenda) and King’s Island, it’s likely his English vocabulary will expand, but maybe not how his parents back in Germany would have expected.

The official trips and tours the German students will be taking during their stay are to the Ohio Statehouse, the Santa Maria, Crew Stadium where they will have a meet and greet with players, and the campus of The Ohio State University. After their three-weeks here are over (they depart on May 18), they will be going to New York City for their own „open days“.

Kuhrt said this exchange program between the schools – which is going on its 29th year – is incredible beneficial to everyone involved.

„One of the biggest benefits is that these kids are making new friendships,“ he said. „A lot of people who have participated in the program have maintained contact with these exchange students almost their entire lives.“

He said another benefit of the program is life expansion.

„For the German students, they are enhancing ther English and broadening their communication skills,“ Kuhrt said.

„For the American students, they are broadening their world horizon and stepping outside of that bubble.“