Students at Summit Academy High School are making friends from halfway across the world.
Twenty German exchange students from the Johann-Michael-Sailer High School arrived in Bluffdale, Utah for a 2 ½ week exchange program beginning March 20.
Each German student stays with a Bluffdale student’s family, learning about American culture and practicing English.
“I’ve been taking German for four years now,” said Derek Muir, a 10th grader at Summit. His family is hosting Daniel Kaim, a 16-year-old German student. It is Kaim’s first time in the United States.
“Daniel has been here for a week and a half, and we’ve loved every minute of it,” Derek said.
When asked about what he has gained from this experience, Muir said this has been his first time out of his homeland.
“This is a good experience for me to experience other cultures around the world,” Daniel said. “I feel very comfortable with my host family. We have a lot of fun.”
The exchange was started this year after German language teacher Susan Ellsworth worked with the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) run by the Goethe Institut to organize it. The GAPP program has been bringing curious German high schoolers to Utah for short-term exchanges for years, but this is the first such program at Summit Academy High School.
The program has been at American Fork and Alta high schools previously, said Janine Arnold, a teacher from Johann-Michael-Sailer High School. They only bring over 20 students, often choosing from a list of more than double that number.
Ellsworth, Muir’s German teacher, is also planning exchanges for a select number of American students to enjoy a longer exchange in Germany. Derek is planning on a three-week exchange with Daniel’s family this summer.
Hannes Goldschmid, a 15-year-old German student, remarked on some of his learning experiences.
“We learned a lot about American culture. What they like to do is very different from German culture and European culture. And, I think it’s quite interesting to see those differences,” he said.
He’s also noticed progress in his language comprehension. “It’s a great way to improve your English, if you’re forced to talk English with your host family.”
Inside the classroom, the German students say they feel comfortable. They are enjoying the four-period school day that contrasts their on-average nine-class day in Dillingen, Germany.
“We have more classes and cannot choose our classes,” said Tamara Buchmann, a German 10th grader. In Germany, “it’s stricter,” Goldschmid adds.
“I think the exchange students really blend in with our students,” said Deanna Smith, Summit’s assistant principal. “The program is great. I know when we talk with our students after the German students leave that they love having them here.”
Ellsworth sees the program as a great opportunity for Utahns and Germans alike. She, along with Arnold, Smith and the students, are looking forward to continuing the program next year.
“I think it has been a really positive thing. I know that in Utah, people don’t get out of Utah much. I think that a lot of times they’re worried about people coming from the other side of the ocean,” Ellsworth said. “What are they going be like? Are they going be well-behaved? Are they going fit in? And so far it has just been wonderful that way.”