Germans catch glimpse of America

Eight youngsters from Germany arrived Sunday in Wapakoneta to catch a glimpse of teenage life in the United States as part of the exchange program with the theme “Catch Your Dream.”

Cheryl Drexler, president of the Sister City program, said they are hoping the German students can catch a glimpse of what it is like to be an American teenager during their stay here. All six children making the trip are 16.

“It is primarily to show them some of our American culture,” Drexler said. “We want to show them what we do and the opportunities we have here in America.”

The program is an attempt to celebrate international friendships and let students participate in each other’s culture.

Andreas Backmann, Niclas Croker, Mona Fornfeist, Anna Hocker, Laura Orscheshek and  Indra Schlingmann, as well as chaperone Christiane Uden made the trip to Wapakoneta Sunday after stopovers along the way.

Six area students, Alec Haehn, Austin Ridenour, Stephen Miner, David DiGiovanni, Emilee Youngpeters and Katie O’Neill visited Germany earlier this month.

The German students and their host families have been corresponding for five months, many of them staying with the families of the same youth that they hosted on the visit to Germany. Greg Myers, Kathleen Haehn,Kathy and Rick O’Neill, Lisa and Gene Meabon, Tina and Paul Binkley, Sandy and Eric Youngpeters and Cheryl Drexler are all serving as host families for the visitors.

“I want to see a lot of things,” Fornheist said. “We are going to go to the fair. The fairs here are much different, with the shows with all the different animals.

Each student said American life doesn’t seem to be all that much different than life at home, but they did point out a few big differences.

“The eating habits are much different,” Uden said.

In Germany, breakfast is a commonly a lighter meal, with breads and cereals. Lunch is usually their heavier meal.

The difference noticed the most was air conditioning.

“The buildings are all air conditioned, and at first I got a little cold sometimes,” Hocker said. “But on days it is hot like today, it is nice to come inside with the air conditioning.”

Other differences noticed by the students were houses made of wood, as virtually every home in Germany is made of brick or stone. The children have also marveled at the size of some of the cars in the United States, as cars are much more compact in Germany and trucks or vans are rarely seen. Also, Bellefontaine Street with all of the restaurants is also a rare scene.

“We have restaurants too, but not so many,” Schlingmann said. “There are a lot more restaurants were you can go through and get fast food.”

All of the German students spoke English well, something they learn at a young age in Germany.

“From the third grade we start learning English,” Croker said. “We study English two or three times a week beginning in third grade.”

On Monday, Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz hosted the German students to a pizza lunch at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building.

Metz, who introduced himself to each of the students, accepted a gift of a wall calendar from the city of Lengerich, Wapakoneta’s sister city in Germany. All of the students making the trip from Germany are from Lengerich or Leinen, Germany.

The group typically has a busy daily agenda, but there are some free days sprinkled in between for sightseeing trips with individual families. They finished Monday with tours of the Wapakoneta Family YMCA and Wapakoneta High School and took a trip to the Wapakoneta WaterPark.

Today, they will take a tour of the bicycle museum in New Bremen. On Wednesday the girls will have a beauty day at OSU Beauty School and have lunch at the Barn Out Back. They will also attend a make-up session and get pictures at Glamour Shots in St. Marys. The boys are slated for a golf outing and lunch.

On Thursday they will tour Ohio Northern University and Friday they will go to local historian Jim Bowsher’s residence to talk about American Indians. Saturday is a free day with their host families.

Many other outings are scheduled, including trips to Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay, the Armstrong Museum, and a tour of the state capitol in Columbus.

The group did make several other stops before coming to Wapakoneta after getting to the United States. They stopped in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and  the American and Canadian side of Niagra Falls. They also visited Amish communities in Lancaster County.