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AMERICAN VOICES 2001
EXCHANGE STUDENTS IN GERMANY

In the winter of 2001, the TAK facilitated and hosted a virtual exchange between American exchange students in Germany (mostly "Experiment"-Students of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program) and Bozeman High School German students. 

Exchange students were invited to send letters of introduction to a bulletin board and students in Bozeman were given access to that board to post their questions. Replies from the exchange students were also posted there. Unfortunately, there weren't that many this time around. But it may still be interesting to read the questions of 14-15 year old American students. 

Thank you, Chris Junghans, BHS teacher, "Experiment e.V.", and participating students!!!

If you'd like to visit our bulletin board online, please visit: http://www.tak.schule.de/board/get/exchange.html
 
 
Mony Meeks (Bay Area, California) writes from ?:  (Sat, 20 Jan 2001 )

Hola, 
wait no that is Spanish! ok well I have been in Germany for 5.5 months now, and it's so weird how time has changed, it still seems like a few weeks ago I was packing up all my stuff in my nice little suburban home in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. (westside!!!) oh and last week I just got back from a week break from german with the rest of the exchange students... 

I was stuck having/wanting to speak Englisch and for the first day or so, I just wanted to talk german, it was earier for me, after 4.5 months of almost constant german, with english breaks only 3 times aweek in English class... my English sucked... ideas came out half english, half german and my word order and grammar was a new language in it self, Ganglisch is what we named it in California, in german class, but this was somthing strange, and frustrating, I mean I was an Honors English Student and now I can hardly kick back an adherable sentence... and vocabulary, I miss using the BIG words. I have had to dumb down my english for the germans to understand and so here I am, afraid that when I have to back for 2 more years of high school, I am going to have to relearn my english so I dont flunk english with my horrid spelling and grammer, I mean look at this for a writing sample, not one of my best, glaub mir, oh and spoken english. 

I don't like talking to my parents because german pops out and they have no idea
what I am saying, or I want to tell then about something and I can think of the english translation. "eben", "geil", "ja klar", "nö", "na und?" all clutter my english converstations. But my German is better, and my switching between english and german is much better, that week gave me pratice at that, between translating and just carring on 2 different conversations in 2 different languages. for any americans that read this, don't get me wrong, it's really tight! and I would not trade this for anything, it's just strange. well it is snowing right now (something we don't have in the San Francisco Bay Area) and I am going to go play in it!

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reply to Mony   (Tue, 23 Jan 2001) 

I have the same problem except it is between Spanish and German. I took
about 2 years of spanish then I switched to german my Junior year in high school. I mix up the 2 languages especially when describing something. When I was reviewing for a German quiz and I looked at delicous I wanted to say delisioso (Its not spelled correctly) but its really Lecher. So I simpithies with you. Also my sister who is in college is in germany and she had the same problem at first but she got a hang of it.

David



reply to Mony (Tue, 23 Jan 2001) 

Hey!

How are you? Is Germany fun? What is there to do in Germany? How is it different to America?  Are the clothes and food any different? What sports are there to play?  The superbowl is on the 28th and it should be pretty exciting!  Here in Bozeman we have a lot of snow!  DO you get much snow where you live?

So what  is the most unusual food, what is your favorite food? Are the German boys hot there?  Is the culture and overall experiance better than America or can you not wait to get home? 

Well i hope you are having fun and we will look for your next letter! Have fun, talk to you later.
                       Bradi and Erin
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reply to Mony  (Tue, 23 Jan 2001)

        Hey Mony.  This is Missy and Katie.  We live in Bozeman Montana and are both in German 1 classes.  I (Missy) have always wanted to go to Germany...  What's it like?  It sounds cool from what I've heard.  Don't feel bad about mixing up the languages. I do it too, and this is only my first year speaking the language.
...
        Gotta Go...
-Missy and Katie



reply from Mony (Fri, 9 Feb 2001)

People look at what you are adding to this board... I mean the weather...american politics.... heck we even know tom cruz and nicole kidman are divorced and the are planning to seperate the 2 adopted kids evenly. 

Germany is not a third world country and considering we could call the United States the worlds leading focal point, we know a lot of what is going on there. some people just wrote stuff on here like your teacher made you. (well if he/she was anything like my old german teacher, that would sound just about right) 

tip on germany- we wear the same stuff you do (except a few strange guys who wear fit to flares and thinks it looks good... and there is a funny hair style going around, but heck isnt there always) - the music is the same, only every 10-11 songs there is one in german. we have MTV, CNN, and NBC, I even watched the superbowl - the commercials last year were better. 

all in all, Germany is not that HUGLY different for the States, its the little things that makes things so different. and that is why I fully believe in the ideas of exchanges, so people can learn first hand the true differences and how to cope with them. but then again everyone thinks there is one easy, simple answer to everything. well this is not one, but somthing to chew on: You as a normal 16-18 year-old american teenager have to deal with things like parents, peers, teachers, getting the car from the parents, girls actually caring about how they look for school (the worst is putting on make up for PE, come on people) 

here is germany, it is totaly different. 1/2 of 16-17 year-olds are finished with school, they are working and only have to go to school for 3 hours once a week (some number like that) so no teachers, but then they do have to deal with a boss! at the age of 16 not only can you buy alcohol, under 20% but you have to be mature to handle it, parents don't come running after to clean up mistakes. teenagers here can't get a licence until they are 18, and than it is over 1,500 bucks just to get the classes.

except for work and the diskos, many girls just skip the whole time wasting ritual of putting on make-up, shaving, and primping...(dont worry I still shave my pits and legs) but basically at 16 you are an adult and responsible for EVERYTHING you do. I went away from CA as a little girl and I am definitly much more independent than I was, I just hope my parents are ready for me in 6 months.
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reply to Mony's reply from a student (Feb 14, 2001)

Our apologies to you. The information we received from our german teacher implied that you were somewhat behind in the motions of our country, and it was only his suggestion, not his command, that we share stuff about  the US. He is asking us to create an information sharing exchange, rather than just us asking all the questions,  and you people over there giving all the answers. 

My classmates and I found your response to our efforts rather  cruel and unecassarily focused on putting down Herr Junghans. Herr Junghans is definately one of the better  teachers at this school and did nothing to deserve the rude comments you made of him. If you are dissapointed in the way we converse, or write, please express it to us in a way that offends no-one, because otherwise I
don't think you're going to get results. We are only american high school students, after all. So please, share some of your experiences with us. We are here to learn, and are only requesting that you aid us in that goal.

Thank you for your time. 
sincerely, Jans Buchacher :) 



reply from Mony to Jans' letter (Thu, 15 Feb 2001) 

I have upper and for most respect for your teacher as well as anyother teacher at your high school or mine... "the Frau" (Frau J. or just Frau Jackson) is an awsome teacher and I would not possiblily be as far along now in my german without her guidence. But nevertheless some of her assignment (making a rap in german about when your parents get mad at you...) are "creative" to the point of a little strange, but that is what makes her a great teacher. 

it is just that almost everyone wrote the same thing, some things I have no idea what they mean, I remember reading one short entry and just thinking, "what did I just read?" All I wanted to say with the last entry was to try to pay attention the the quality of messages people leave on this board. and one of the things I dont like about the written language is how the tone of voice in which I mean it, can be misinterpreted when someone else a 1/2 a world away reads it. 

I would like to make this my appology for anything I wrote that was in someway offensive. And I truly hope that at least some of my observations about the differences between our two cultures were also see, and that you can learn too, like I have about the German culture and what it means to be an Exchange Student... let me tell you it is hard work, it's hard enough not getting people angry at you in your own language, I have been working really hard so Germans don't get mad at me either. 
Gruß mony
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reply to Mony's letter from Chris Junghans, teacher (24. Feb.2001)

Mony, 

Wollte nur sagen, dass Dein Brief mich ueberhaupt nicht geaergert hat.  Der Jans hat das alles Nett gemeint, und ich freute mich dass er wieder geschrieben hatte. Nur, was ist mit den  anderen Austauschschuelern beim Programm? Koenntest Du mal an die schreiben und bitten dass sie mitmachen wuerden? (Wenn Du ueberhaupt im Kontakt mit denen bist). 

Ich fand Deinen ersten Brief hochinteressant und habe den Brief sogar auf der Wand im Klassenzimmer  gehaengt (wo der noch immer steht). Ich haette das selbst nicht besser sagen koennen (wenn Du das nicht als eine Beleidigung nimmst!). Du hast einen grossen und wichtigen Unterschied zwischen Ami und Deutsche Schueler damit getroffen. Schoen geschrieben. 

Alles Gute! 

Chris Junghans
 
Anika Tadlock (Visalia, California) writes from Königslutter: (21 Jan 2001)

My name is Anika Tadlock and I am with the Congress Bundestag Exchange Program.  I am 18 years old and already graduated from High School.  This time last year I was waiting for my response from the program, I never thought I would actually be here though. I received your letter at our meeting in Bonn and then again in my mail box, so taking a short break from a report due next week in Kunst on Vincet van Gogh, I thought that I would give you a quick response.

I come from Central California, Visalia. I am currently living in a little village in Northern Germany, called Königslutter.  The largest city nearby is Braunschweig, about 30km away.  Königslutter is a nice village with one of the odest standing churches, left from the Roman times and remained untouched during the Second World War.  Königslutter also sits at the edge of a forest, the Elm Forest.  I like to go biking through the Elm on nice days, or sometimes on Sunday afternoons my host family and I will go for a walk in the Elm, you know get some fresh air  ..though we have not been able to do that recently.

My host family is really nice.  My host dad is an Englisch teacher at a private school in Wolfsburg.  My host mom is an Englisch teacher at a Volkshochschule.
I have only one host sibling, Anne.  Anne spent last year in Pennsylvania on exchange.  She is also 18 just like me.  Anyway, needless to say, communication is really not a problem in my house.  Do not worry though, they speak only German with me unless I really do not understand. 

School was very difficult at the beginning.  I go to a Gymnasium in another little village 30km in the other direction through the Elm, about a half hour bus ride every morning.  I had had four years of German in school before I came here, but I realized that in my six months here I have learned more than in my four years sitting in the class room.  Experiencing the culture and language is really the only true way to learn and understand.  I have a tough schedule at school...
 
Monday  Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Kunst Geschichte Deutsch frei Biology
Kunst Geschichte frei frei Biology
frei Englisch Englisch Deutsch Englisch
Deutsch frei Deutsch Erdkunde Englisch
Deutsch Deutsch Deutsch Erdkunde frei
Deutsch Erdkunde English  frei
Biology Geschichte Kunst

Now that might not look like anything too hard but look closely.  I have 8 hours of Deutsch Unterricht.  I have German with the 9th grade students...one of my favorite classes.  I am 4 years older than most of them but they are really neat kids.  I also have German with the 12th grade students.  I am in the 12th grade so all of my other classes are up to that standard.  Remember that all of these are in German!...well except Englisch but even then it sometimes goes back and forth.

And of course there is the social life here.  I kind of had it easy because Anne and I are the same age and in the same grade so I just slipped in with her friends.  That worked out well.  I have also met friends on my own from the different activies that I am involved with.  I joined a local swim club here and have met many new people that I share a lot of the same interests with.  I also have made a few friends
through my church...but that is in Braunschweig so it is gernally a little harder to meet with them regularly.  It takes about 20 min. mit dem Zug.  Of course there are also the discos and such.  We have to drive to Braunschweig or sometimes all the way to Hannover to go to the discos.  They are okay.  Anne goes just about every weekend but I go only once a month or so.

Homesickness has been an inssue since about Thanksgiving but I think that I am finally pulling out of it.  Christmas was really nice here.  It was hard not to get into the spirit of things.  Christmas is just as commercialized here in Germany as it is in America but hey you have to know it is the season. 

The Weihnachtsmarkt in Braunschweig was so neat.  The different boothes with people selling different things, Weihnachtsmusik, Weihnachtsmann, lots and lots
of candy...all of the nice things that are the same in America but uniquely German as well...I do not know if that makes any sense.  On Heilige Abend we decorated
the Tannenbaum, went to church in Der Dom and had a nice family celebration.  It was my first white Christmas ever!

Over New Years, we took a little ski vacation in the Austrian Alps.  Now that was cool.  The Austrians definately have their own ways... when two Austrains
were talking together I could not understand one word even though they were speaking German.  The authentic Austrian Apfelstrudel or Wienerschnitzel are to die for!  We had a nice trip with six days of skiing... some better than others. 

When school started up again last Monday I noticed that they like to start with a bang.  My homework load was raised from 3 hours a day to about 4 or 5 hours a
day...well when I feel ambitious enough.  For instance, this VanGogh report that is due next week, it has to be in German so it naturally takes longer than if it were to be done in Englisch.

Another strange insight.  You have no idea what a strange feeling it is when you realize that you are thinking, at least partially, in German... or any language for that matter.  Dreaming in German was also strange and that started in Oktober before I had a really good grip on the whole communication thing.

Well, I ought to get back to my work... work on a Saturday?  There should be laws against that sort of thing.  Hehe.  Hope this was helpful... I really could say a lot more but I do not want to bore you too much.

Sincerely, Anika N. Tadlock
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reply to Anika   (Tue, 23 Jan 2001) 

hello anika. our names are kara and eric, and we're german students at bozeman high school in montana. and no, montana is not in canada, just for the record. anyway, it sounds like germany is cool. i (eric) am a big skier, so i was quite jealous to hear that you got to spend that much time in the alps. i would kill for just one run on any of those mountains, i hope you realize how lucky you are. 

I ( kara) want to know more about the food. I am a big food fan. What's your favorite German food? do they have such a thing as REAL german chocalate cake, because I love German chocolate cake here! Do they drink regular soda pop or do
they have other stuff? we find that organic stuff to be rather disgusting! have you been to any movies in germany before? the ones that are out here are really good. you might have to wait a while to see em', cuz it takes longer for the producing companies to send the movies to europe. well, we have homework to do now, so we're gonna say bye (tschus!)

kara und eric



reply to Anika  (Tue, 23 Jan 2001) 

Dear Anika Todlock,
        I am writing you because I am very interested in this foreign exchange program.  I am taking german write now in highschool and someday I would like to travel to Germany one day.  I don't think I would be brave enough like you to actualy be a foriegn echange student. 

What is it like in Germany?  how are things different there than from here?  What interesting experiences have you encounterd?  And lastly how was skiing in the Alps?  (i love to ski)

That's probably enough questions for you now I'm sure you get a  lot of e-mails.  I'd apreciate your response.

                     Ashley
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reply to Anika (Tue, 23 Jan 2001) 

HI my name is Clair and my pal Linsey and I are wondering about your time in germany? Was it fun?
I would be home sick if I were in Germany that long. What do you miss most about America?
well please write back

Clair & Linsey
 
 
Andrea Wagner (Idaho Falls, Idaho) writes from Melle-Riemsloh: (21 Jan 2001)

hallo. i am andrea wagner, i come from pretty close to you guys. i live in idaho falls idaho. my family and i go four or fife times a year to bozman. now i am in germany on the congress bundestag program.

andiy wagner, 49328 melle- riemsloh

this email is my families, but it is checked more than my email. when you have questions please ask. i am very open about me and my life here
so please write.

servus ;) andiy



reply to Andrea (Tue, 23 Jan 2001)

Liebe Andrea!
Ich heisse John. Wie geht's im Deutschland? I live in Bozeman, Montana(USA). German exchange students made fun of our bread in comparison with theirs. How is it different?
What sort of things do you do in your free time? What do they teach you in those schools? Do you ever think about home? Lastly, what sort of things do German stuents wear?

Sincerely,
John



reply to Andrea (Mon, 22 Jan 2001) 

Hey Andrea! This is Jeff and Jans from Mr. Junghans's 8th period German class. We are very glad to meet someone who lives in Germany but has experience in the US of A who can answer questions. We know a little bit about the German culture from our studies, but it's not the same as firsthand experience. 

How does a school day over there compare to one here in America? Do you find it hard to keep up in class? Okay, enough of German stuff. What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have a favorite song? What about movies? I hear that the movies over there are delayed about two months. Is that true? I couldn't handle having to wait a couple extra months for MI:2 or Meet the parents. Anyway, we must go. 
Have a lovely afternoon, and we hope to hear from you soon! 
-Jeff and Jans :)

 
Margaret Andersen (Chicago, Illinois) writes from Herford: (2 May 2001)

Hi everybody!

Ok, so I'm a little late responding to the nice letter that Mr. Junghans sent all of us about participating in this forum, but I still wanted to introduce myself and mention a few things about my life here in Germany. I'm in favor of exchanging cross-cultural perspectives, and I think bulletin boards like this one are a good idea. So here goes....

My name is Margaret and I'm originally from Chicago. These days I'm living on a Congress-Bundestag scholarship in a smalish town (pop. 65,000) called Herford in Ostwestfalen (the eastern part of Nordrhein-Westfalen, for those of you looking in atlases), about 10km north of Bielefeld. Things here are good and I have a really nice host family and some cool friends. I had been an exchange student before I came here this year, but only for short periods and usually during the
summer.

A few comments to the subject of differences between Germans and Americans: I think I'd be misrepresenting truth (i.e. lying) if I said there were no differences, but I think they're not as big as many people would imagine. Also, (and this may not surprise you) a lot of the stereotypes of German existence are simply not true. Bier, Lederhosen? I know Germans who don't even like beer, nevermind consuming large quantities of it on a regular basis. And I have yet to see anyone in
real life running around in a pair of those brown leather shorts so popular among tourists at Oktoberfest. And with regards to the deutsche Pünktlichkeit and Ordnung, I have a good number of friends here who are regularly late and not at all good at keeping things neat and tidy. So much for generalizations. I don't know, maybe I'm just not good at making them.

I think one of the difficulties in comparing German and American lifestyles is that all of the Americans here come from different backgrounds in America, and there are fairly significant regional differences throughout all of Germany. So the same way a German student coming home from LA would have a different perspective on Americans than one who had lived in small town Arkansas, an American student living in Hamburg or Bremen has a different notion of Germany than someone in a Dorf in Oberfranken.

I would also like this opportunity to share one of the most bizarre intercultural misunderstandings I have encountered during my stay here: tunafish pizza. They sell it fresh at stands, they sell it frozen in boxes and somehow, they even label it AMERICAN. Now, maybe we just don't eat normal pizza in Chicago, but have any of you kids ever even _heard_ of tunafish pizza in the United States? I can't say I've ever encountered or eaten it back home, and it baffles me that this weird and reeking creation so foreign to me could be identified as 'typically American'. (Apologies to all tunafish lovers out there, but this really strikes me as a misuse of good protein.) Does this perhaps come from Italy? I don't know. I any case, it was a big shock to me to see my first box of frozen 'America' pizza smothered in tunafish and onions. Zoiks.

Well, I hope that gives you some initial impressions of Germany, from my limited perspective, anyway. Happy Spring and I hope that if the weather isn't already warm where you live, that it's on its way there.

Margaret

P.S. Please post questions or responses to this. As you can say, I'm big
on lengthy texts, especially now that I'm done with school. Heh heh.

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