Guest Blogger: Melissa, River Bluff Senior, GAPP exchange partner
This semester River Bluff has taken part in an exchange program through GAPP, or the German American Partnership Program, an organization that sends German students over to the United States and in return, American students are sent over to Germany. This is the first time River Bluff has taken part in a program that sends American exchange students overseas. In March, 21 German students came to River Bluff to learn about American culture and education in schools, as well as the daily lives of some of our students.
Over the course of two and a half weeks, students from Germany lived with, went to school with, and followed River Bluff students. As the German students shadowed, they learned about American school curriculum and what is required to be a student at an EL School. Exchange students were able to try new foods, participate in different actives, and see all Lexington has to offer. Both exchange and host students took field excursions to the State House, Williams Bryce Stadium, and USC to learn more about the United States’ government and culture. The students also participated in team building exercises at Saluda Shoals. During these activities, the River Bluff students and their German exchange students had to communicate, trust each other, and learn to overcome language barriers. Exchange students were also taken to different places around South Carolina by their host families. Host families took their students to places such as Charleston, and did activities in Lexington such as roller skating and going to the mall. After staying with their host families, the German exchange students spent some time in Atlanta, Georgia before returning home. Before they left, we had a farewell breakfast for them. Everyone was in tears and it was a very heartfelt “auf wiedersehen”.
The German word “auf wiedersehen” literally translates to “until I see you again”. This word is perfect for this exchange because in only 2 months we will see our German host students again. This summer, 14 of our River Bluff students who hosted German students, will be traveling to Germany. We will learn about German schools, culture, and politics, while immersing ourselves in the German language. Students will live with and shadow Germans students, just as the Germans students did in March. By traveling to other countries, students have the opportunity to be immersed and begin to understand an entirely new culture.
Some of the students who participated in the exchange said:
“The GAPP exchange has given me opportunities I didn’t even know were possible. It’s crazy how close you can get to someone in the span of two and half weeks. It allowed me to create life-long memories and gave me friendships I never knew were possible. Just being around them (the Germans) allowed my German to grow exponentially. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to host a student and I can’t wait to see what the second half of this exchange holds” –Will, RHBS junior
“Hosting an exchange student has been the most rewarding experience. While I improved my German, I also made friends.” – Blythe, RBHS Junior
“This was truly a wonderful experience for our family! I was very nervous before the German students arrived, because I have never done anything like this before. I am so glad that we participated in this, because it was great getting to know Nils and learning about his country. It warmed my heart to see how all of the German and American students bonded.” – Kimberly, parent
Our students have already made relationships with their German exchange students that will last much longer than just a few weeks, and even though our exchange students are back in Germany, they will always be a part of our River Bluff family.
World Language Teacher Support Specialist (and Language Enthusiast)