German students experience America

Pictured, front row, from left are Gedern students James Davis, Vinia Oberheim, Nina Ahlig, Viktorika Lofink, Alina Kolesnikov, Ilva Gerhardt, Enya Appel and Sina Oechler; middle row: Finn Ogal, Niko Kraus, Jonathan Bauersfeld, Anna-Lisa Schmied, Jan Silas Bernhardt, Jonas Groth, Sophie Schild, Lara Kehm and teacher Britta Schaefer-Clarke; back row: Niclas Balzer, Sarah Guenther, Marlon Mohr, Tom Gowin, Cora Gottschalk, Jonathan Ziegler, Johanna Kempel, Luca Boos, Tim-Luca Hofmann and teacher Andreas Heuser.

As is tradition, Columbia is currently home to 25 students from Gedern, Germany. 

The partnership between Gedern and Columbia, which is in its 26th year, allows Columbia High School students to visit Germany in even-numbered years and Gesamtschule Gedern students to visit America during odd-numbered years. 

“We think this is the best exchange program you can find worldwide,” English teacher Andreas Heuser said. 

This year, the students arrived March 28 with a Columbia Police Department and Columbia Fire Department escort. 

They are in town until April 18. 

The Republic-Times spoke with the students Friday. 

So far they had done a number of activities, such as going to a St. Louis Cardinals game, jumping Sky Zone Trampoline Park in St. Louis, visiting the Federal Reserve Museum and St. Louis Zoo and visiting the Gateway Arch.

They also had more everyday experiences like attending school, going to a Columbia City Council meeting and spending time with their host families.  

Those experiences should have helped the students accomplish their goal for coming to America. 

“I always wanted to go to America,” Nina Ahlig said. 

“I wanted to experience American culture and how they live here,” Sophie Schild agreed. 

Of the American culture they experienced, the students had a variety of favorite activities. 

“My highlight was the Skyzone in St. Louis,” Niclas Balzer said.

For some students, they preferred activities in Columbia, such as prom, which the students do not have in Germany. 

“I liked the dresses and that we all danced,” Schild said. 

In Germany, students must take a dancing class to participate in something like the prom, and even then it is not through the school. 

For other students, their favorite activity was not related to a specific place. 

Marlon Mohr said he enjoyed shopping for clothes. 

“It’s cheaper here,” he noted. 

For at least one student, her favorite part of the trip was not an activity at all.  

“For me, it wasn’t a field trip or anything,” Johanna Kempel said. “I think my favorite part was my host family.” 

The students still had a few days on their trip, however, so their highlight could have changed. 

They said they had more trips planned that they were looking forward to. 

“We are going to Chicago,” Viktorika Lofink said excitedly. 

A group of students also took a trip to Springfield to go camping and see the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. 

Although they still had those trips to look forward to, students were already satisfied with their American exposure.

A few are considering staying for a year in Columbia, a common sentiment among the Gedern groups. 

They also plan to encourage others to participate in the program. 

“I think I would tell my friends all about our fun experience,” Tim-Luca Hofmann said. 

The group also praised CHS for its part in the program. 

“It’s great that Columbia High School offers such an opportunity,” Lofink said.

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