Two groups of students recently spent time traveling abroad and experiencing different cultures.
In February, 25 students taking German went on an exchange program to Germany for two weeks. Students stayed with host families and visited local attractions. The group was led by Mrs. Christine Connor, German teacher at Shaker High School.
The students experienced German culture firsthand by being immersed in the life of a German family and attending school with their host partners. In homeroom every morning, the chaperones learned about the exciting things they did with their exchange partners the night before – attending dance classes, going to German driver’s ed, being part of a Mardi Gras themed celebration, visiting local parks and pools, meeting relatives of the host families and going shopping and cooking authentic German dinners with their families.
The students actively used and practiced their German. At our partner school, they attended and participated in classes with their host partner. The American students also gave presentation about Shaker High School, the capital region, Latham and activities they like to do in their free time. The presentations were well received by the German students and many interesting discussions ensued. Students from both countries learned a lot from each other.
During the home stay, the students also took many wonderful field trips. Highlights included visits to the ancient city of Trier, which dates back to Roman time; Heidelberg, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Germany; and the city of Saarbrücken, where our exchange school is located, with its castle and vibrant downtown. On the weekends, the German families took the students on trips to Paris or other cities in France, to Luxembourg and to many other popular destinations and cities in southwest Germany. The German teachers planned a fantastic afternoon program including indoor climbing and a theater workshop.
Lastly, students embarked on a three day stay in Berlin, the capital of Germany. Students experienced history firsthand by visiting the remains of the Berlin Wall at the East side gallery and learning about the fate of GDR fugitives at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. While visiting the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, students got an insight into the reunification and the changes it brought to Berlin They read about the personal fate of Jewish families being deported to Concentration camps during the Third Reich at the Holocaust Memorial. Other highlights included a visit to the Charlottenburg Castle, ascending the TV tower for a view of the city from high above and strolling down the biggest shopping street and department store in Berlin.
“This trip has 100 percent changed my life. Joining this exchange was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said SHS junior Lily Jerome. “It was an extremely eye-opening experience and being exposed to a completely different culture has benefited me in so many ways.”
A group of 31 students traveled to Ecuador during the February vacation. The group hiked one of the tallest volcanoes, volunteered at an orphanage and explored the city of Quito. The group was led by Ms. Jessie Morgan, Spanish teacher at Shaker High School.
One of the highlights of the trip was the “Mitad del Mundo” which means “Middle of the World” where students spent the afternoon on the equator learning facts about the Earth and the equator.
Students also took a gondola up to about 13,500 feet above sea level overlooking the entire valley of Quito at sunset. They hiked the second highest active volcano in the world called “Cotopaxi” where students climbed 16,000 feet above sea level. This was an extremely adventurous and exhilarating experience for all of the students.
Additionally, students spent time at an orphanage outside of Quito. Students spent about 6 hours volunteering their time, playing games, cooking pizza and sharing a meal with the children. It was a moving experience and an emotional day. Many of the students felt this was the best experience of the trip.
“I can honestly say this was the best trip I have ever taken,” said SHS junior Olivia Rowley. “By the end of the trip we were a family. We felt as though we had known each other for years. I can say that from this trip, I’ve gained a group of friends that I will never forget! Ecuador was a beautiful country that I look forward to returning to and exploring more of its natural beauty.”