For one, it was the thrill of watching cars crash into each other while attending his first auto demolition derby.
For the other, it was the sweet taste of funnel cakes.
German students Michael Zacharias, 18, and Inga Müller, 16, will carry those memories and plenty of others with them upon their return home this weekend following a month-long stay in Waterloo as part of an annual sister cities summer exchange program.
Both mentioned only subtle differences between life in Waterloo and back home in Porta Westfalica, Germany, and were impressed by the hospitality of their host families.
Zacharias stayed at the homes of Bill and Barb Savering and Bill and Roxanne Jost during his stay. He will start working as a computer programmer for the German military while attending college upon his return home.
He said Monroe County has much more farming and open spaces than his more urbanized hometown in northwest Germany.
“Things are much closer together (in Germany),” he said.
Among the highlights of his stay were trips to Kentucky, the City Museum in St. Louis (“It was more of a fun park,” he said), a gun show in St. Charles, Mo., and visits to the Monroe County Fair.
At the fair, Zacharias was especially impressed by the Figure 8 race and demo derby.
“It was very dirty… many collisions,” Zacharias said of the events. “It was pretty fun. I had never seen anything like it.”
The Josts were in a unique position, serving as host to the German student while their daughter, Courtney, visits Porta Westfalica.
Roxanne Jost said her daughter reported there are not many ceiling fans or places with air conditioning in that part of Germany due to the comfortable summer weather.
“She said they don’t even use ice cubes for their drinks,” Roxanne Jost added, saying another difference is that more people use bicycles or walk to places rather than drive cars.
The Josts said it has been fun to host Zacharias while at the same time hearing about their daughter’s stay in Germany.Pictured, Waterloo students Veronica Steibel and Courtney Jost attend a welcome reception at Porta Westfalica City Hall in Germany. They are visiting as part of the annual sister cities summer exchange partnership. (submitted photo)
Müller, who is entering her junior year in high school, stayed at the homes of Jim and Jodie Probst, Brian and Beth Van Veghel, and Ken and Susan Stratman.
“My impression of Waterloo and America is very good,” Müller said. “Everybody is very friendly and open. I met a lot of new people and learned about the American culture.”
She visited the St. Louis Zoo and Science Center as well as the Gateway Arch, and also took a trip with her host family to Holiday World.
“I’ve also been to Cahokia where I visited the museum and the big mound,” she said. “It was very interesting to see how the Indians lived about 800 years ago.”
Müller also took in a Cardinals baseball game, and also played Laser Tag for the first time.
“We don’t have Laser Tag in Germany,” she said. “I really liked it.”
Beth Van Veghel said it was a pleasure having Müller stay at her home.
“The best experience… learning to play Euchre!” Van Veghel said.
Susan Stratman said Müller enjoyed taking in the sights at the Monroe County Fair, including the FFA Fun Night.
Oh, and there were funnel cakes.
“That was her favorite,” Stratman said.
Müller said that, all in all, Waterloo and Porta Westfalica are not that different.
“It is mainly the same, but everything here in America is bigger and not so dense,” she said. “There are more fields and farms, and the food is sweeter.”