Eleven German students are flying back to their home country from Howard County today, after having spent nearly two weeks immersed in American life and culture.
About half of them stayed with Glenelg High School students, while others lived with Mount Hebron and Oakland Mills high school students. The visit was part of a cultural exchange arranged by Glenelg.
This June, eight Howard County students will travel to German for about two weeks, three of them from Glenelg, three from Mount Hebron and two from Oakland Mills.
For the German students, the recent stay included sightseeing, a trip to Saint Mary's City for a Maryland Day celebration, and participation in everyday school life.
It also gave them a chance to take part in activities popular among American teen-agers, such as sports, movies and hanging out at the mall.
"I like most to see another way of life," said Kirsten Panteleit, 16. "I like to see how it is to attend this kind of school."
Kirsten and her peers hail from Herne, a province of North Rhine-Westphalia and a bustling industrial city of 180,000 in west central Germany.
While in the United States, she visited Washington, D.C., and was especially impressed by the Capitol and by the White House, with its "different rooms with different colors. . . . I thought it was funny."
The German students were taken aback by some things, such as the size of America's malls and the price of clothing and other items. Disney-motif T-shirts were a popular purchase as mementos for those back home.
"Everything was so 'wow' to them," said Connie Dodmead, 16-year-old Glenelg junior. "They couldn't believe how cheap it was."
Some of the German students, like 16-year-old Jenny Alexander, will take home a smattering of American slang picked up in conversation with Howard teen-agers, including words like "neat," "cool" and "cute."
And what do they think of American teen-agers?
"They do more sports," said 16-year-old Mirja Bernhard.
"They watch more TV," said 17-year-old Sandra Gesper, explaining that, in Germany, teen-agers watch only an hour a day.
Nina Rehlong, 16, noted that Glenelg's teachers were less strict than her teachers at Gymnasium Eickel and that their tests, for the most part, were multiple choice, instead of the two- to three-hour essay exams she gets in Germany.
Although the young people in the exchange program said there were differences between the German and American teen-agers, there also were similarities, including boy-girl relationship problems and an affinity for alternative music.
The German students' trip didn't go off without a hitch, however.
At the outset, they were separated from their teacher, Anke Skoczek, for the plane ride to America. Ms. Skoczek, who teaches French and geography, had gone to the airport with the wrong passport and stood at the airport, watching her students board themselves.
"It was horrible," she said. "The students got onto the airplane and changed from Heathrow Airport to Gatwick Airport by themselves. My flight went to New York then to Baltimore. I arrived three hours late."