German Exchange Students Visit Jefferson

Students from Klenze Gymnasium High School in Munich come to Jefferson for a cultural exchange program.


Rose Du

German exchange students having fun while teaching German culture to Jefferson students, Celia Vander Ploeg Fallon (second from left) and Nimisha Panabakam (far right). “Everything in America was so different yet super fun, and I will definitely take back a lot with me to Germany,” exchange student Elena Zachariades said.

Rose Du and Sarah Wang

Exchange students from Klenze Gymnasium High School in Munich, Germany arrived in America on Saturday, Oct. 19. Several students who take German at Jefferson offered to host the exchange students for the duration of their stay of two weeks. The purpose of the program was to foster a cultural connection between the students, and enhance the learning experience of both groups. 

“One of the best things about the TJ German program is the opportunity to travel to Germany and practice your language skills in real life,” German teacher Szilvia Oszko said. “We are lucky to have a partner school in Munich, which is considered to be the most beautiful city in Germany, surrounded by the Alps and gorgeous lakes.”

The German exchange students first landed in America a few weeks prior to coming to Northern Virginia, spending a few days in New York.

Many of the host students thought that there were many benefits to the exchange program, both for the American students as well as the German students.

“The students who take German get to learn more about the culture, and what better way to do that than to get to know native German people?” junior Didi Elsyad said. “Likewise, the students in Germany learn English starting in first grade, so this is a good way for them to learn about American culture and practice their English.” 

However, Jefferson host students had to balance their time appropriately, so they could spend time with their exchange students. 

“I’m going to have to make sure I have enough time to do activities with them, so I have to be really on top of my homework,” sophomore Lauren Spehlmann said. 

Some students had already thought of many plans to keep the Germans entertained and to introduce them to the American life. 

“We showed them Halloween things like dressing up and trick or treating, going to a mall, and just small things like playing board games as a family,” junior Max Golub said.

The exchange students shadowed their host partners at school, mainly focusing in on the German classes their hosts take.

“The exchange students from our partner school visit all our German classes multiple times and participate in discussions, skits, and projects with them,” Oszko said. “A lot of activities during these two weeks center around the exchange of experiences, opinions and perspectives that allow students to compare and contrast the cultures of Germany and America.”

After living in America with their host families for two weeks, the German exchange students noticed significant differences between student life in America compared to Germany. 

“I was surprised about the long distances between houses to school, and how your parents have to drive you everywhere,” exchange student Lorenz Kunert said. “It also surprised me how little free time you guys have. I meet with my friends every two to three days minumum, sometimes everyday, and I heard that you guys are not able to do that.”

Not only was the exchange program a unique experience for the host students, but the German students were able to immerse into a different culture and engage in new activities, such as Halloween.

“I thought it was very interesting how crazy America goes on Halloween, like having Fields of Fear and haunted houses,” exchange student Juliane Pfeifer said. “There were so many houses decorated and parties for the holiday.”

The exchange students also learned about what schools are like in America in comparison to Germany. 

“In America, all your schools have so much more high tech equipment, which is really nice,” Pfeifer said. “Your school also places a lot more attention on safety, like with the security cameras and everything, which is a lot more relaxed in Germany.”

Many of the German exchange students enjoyed aspects unique to the learning environment at Jefferson. 

“I liked most of the teachers here, and I really liked the astronomy class and the planetarium,” Kunert said. “The football game was also really fun.”

After a fun-filled and educational visit of two weeks, the German exchange students returned to Germany on Saturday, Nov. 2. 

“The people here are so nice, so I’d definitely come back,” exchange student Rafael Heuschkel said. “Everyone here was so friendly to me, even when I didn’t know anyone. I made so many friends in just two weeks.”