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May 13, 2014 > German exchange students visit local high school

German exchange students visit local high school

By Medha Raman

For two weeks in April, students at Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) in Fremont said ÒgutentagÓ to German students visiting their campus as the result of MJSHSÕs German exchange program created by ethnic studies teacher Risha Krishna. The program was established three years ago with Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium, a school in Gottingen, Germany, under the Fulbright Commission. School selection was based on similar demographics and academic performance levels.

Last summer, 13 Bay Area students took part in the third annual German exchange, led by teachers Risha Krishna and Charlie Brucker and Principal Sandra Praire. Based on their interests, each student was paired with a host family in Gottingen for a first-hand look at life in Germany.

In reciprocity, 13 students, one English teacher, and the principal from Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium visited the Bay Area. From April 4-18, students resided with host families and experienced life in America including visiting major historic sites in San Francisco and attending a Warriors game. Exchange students also spent time on the MSJHS campus where they learned about the classes, culture of the campus, and daily student activities by shadowing host students throughout the day.

On Friday, April 11, parents from Mission Possible, MSJHSÕs parent and faculty association, hosted lunch for participating students and teachers. Attendees included Mayor Harrison, Superintendent Morris, Assistant Superintendent Deborah Sims, School Board President Lara Calvert-York, School Board Vice-President Desrie Campbell, and School Board Clerk Ann Crosbie. Krishna and Mayor Harrison welcomed the German exchange teachers and students to Fremont and, as part of the MayorÕs welcome, students from both MSJHS and Otto-Hahn received Fremont pins.

Although the visit is over, experiences will last a lifetime. Host parent Vielca Henderson recalls her sonÕs thoughts on the program: ÒMost of what IÕve learned about Germany has been learned through textbooks and class, and some media attention or information, but actually going there really opens your eyes to a different perspective of it allÑnot only to Germany but how you view the world.Ó

Many students had similar remarks, all describing the program as a one-of-a-kind, life-changing experience. Expecting to find many differences between Germany and the U.S., students were surprised to find that there were, in fact, more similarities. Students also grew very close to their host partners after spending so much time together, teaching each other about their cultures.

Although the program might transform over time, the primary goal will remain - connecting people and cultures across the world through the exchange of experiences, compassion, and international relations skills.

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