Students exchange cultures

Published 2:16 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

During the past two weeks, 12 visitors from Germany called Prince Edward County home. The guests were visiting through Prince Edward County High School’s (PECHS) German exchange program. Ten students and two faculty chaperones stayed in Farmville.

They came from St. Angela’s School, located in Königstein, Germany. This is the exchange program’s 14th year.

According to the German students, PECHS is very different from their small all-girls school. They agreed people are very open-minded here. Each of the students stayed with a host family, and students from both PECHS and Fuqua School hosted the German girls. Next June, many of the Prince Edward students will travel to Germany to be immersed in German school and life.

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Megan Cunningham, PECHS German Exchange Program coordinator, said the program is important because it allows students to experience a different culture. Language and history classes can only provide so much, she said.

“It’s beneficial to actually hear the language, meet people from that culture and talk to them. Learning about other cultures gives you insights into the world, and it also increases cultural understanding and acceptance,” Cunningham, who has worked with the program for six years, said.

The German students’ trip was unique this year, coinciding with the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University. In addition to viewing part of the American political system, they also went on a number of trips. The students learned about history while at Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Michie Tavern and the Moton Museum.

While at a homecoming game, the girls learned about football and traditions. They enjoyed shopping at a mall in Williamsburg and attending a German class at Longwood. They also went on a field trip to Hampden-Sydney College.

Three of the students attended classes at Fuqua with their host.

The girls enjoyed trying different foods while in America. Some foods they enjoyed the most were s’mores and Poptarts.

The German students said they look forward to showing their American hosts around Germany when they visit. They are most excited about going on a trip to Frankfurt.

Cunningham said she’s seen her students learn German words, though the school no longer offers German classes. She said several past hosts have even gone on to study German in college.

During the students’ time, both in America and in Germany, they have opportunities to ask questions and learn from one another. For example, Cunningham said, “German students do not have homecoming, so they asked about some of the different activities, and the purpose of it.”

The program has created lasting friendships between hosts, Cunningham said.

“I have also seen some shy, quiet students who have come out of their shell a little bit, by being forced to talk and socialize with their partners,” she said.

Students who have participated with the program have had a positive impact overall, Cunningham said. It makes them more well-rounded and cultured.

“Just because we live in a small town doesn’t mean that we have to be isolated from the rest of the world,” Cunningham said.