By BRIDGET FRYMAN
BENTON — The most valuable lessons are learned through experience, not from a textbook, and a group of Fairfield students will be discovering that for themselves.
Students and their families are in the middle of two-week visit by 19 German students. Five Fairfield High School students will travel to Germany in June to complete the exchange.
“It is about making a personal connection with real people, rather than interacting with a website or a textbook,” German teacher Andrea Ganger said. “It becomes a life changing experience.”
The exchange is through the German American Partnership Program, or GAPP, which is supported by both the U.S. State Department and the German government. Fairfield has been paired with the German school Stein Muehle in Marburg. This is the first time Fairfield has participated in an exchange program in at least 20 years, Ganger said.
Senior Donald Adamson is looking forward to being completely immersed in a different culture and language.
“I don’t know who wouldn’t want to go,” Adamson said. “It’s a cultural experience you can’t get living here.”
Junior Tyler Rodes is ready for the adventure.
“I’ve never been to a non-English speaking country,” Rodes said.
They are also looking forward to sharing what life in Goshen is really like. Rodes is taking his visiting student to a local farm, and they have already seen some Amish. Adamson said he’s planning to take his student to local stores, and has already hit Walmart and Taco Bell.
German student Alex Siniatchkin enjoyed the trips to Taco Bell, but is also looking forward to seeing the differences between Germany and the U. S., and improving his English.
While some of the Fairfield students may be quietly worrying about their language skills, Ganger said she is confident her students know the language and know how to ask for help if they get stuck. They have already tackled the biggest challenge in signing up for the trip and agreeing to venture out of their normal comfort zone.
“They are stepping out and taking this on as an adventure,” she said.
English teacher Rosie Ziegenbein has been participating in exchanges with her students since 1993, but is excited to be in a new place and partnered with a new school.
“I’m looking forward to them getting to know the American lifestyle and how the school system works,” she said.
Three members of their group have been to the U.S. before, but it is not the same as it is with an exchange program.
“You can’t compare a weekend trip to New York to living with a family,” co-teacher Stephan Steinbach said.
The German students and their two teachers arrived Saturday and will stay for two weeks and will visit Chicago and New York City before returning home.
Fairfield’s students will travel to Marburg June 6-27, with stops in Berlin and Munich.