Taking a look at life in U.S. Exchange: Visiting German students see all the sights, find school more strict than at home and marvel at importance of sports.

November 03, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

They have attended a high school pep rally, homecoming football game and dance; toured the National Aquarium, World Trade Center and Harborplace in Baltimore and the Smithsonian museums in Washington, and explored the Amish country around Lancaster, Pa.

The 24 students from Rotteck Gymnasium in Friedburg, Germany, have been through the State House and the Naval Academy in Annapolis; are planning a weekend trip to Williamsburg, Va., and have attended classes at North County High School on schedules they cobbled together themselves -- something they could not do at home.

In Germany, students all take the same classes according to their grade level.

"We cannot choose what to do," said Gesine Hallermann, 16, one of the students. "People here say, 'I like this better than that, so I am going to take this.' "

The students and two of their teachers arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Oct. 17 and are staying with families of North County High students -- some of whom visited Germany in the summer.

The students say American schools are more strict than theirs.

"You always need a [hall pass] if you want to go to the restroom, and [teachers] always check the list to see if everyone is present," Andi Ueberrhein, 15, an exchange student, said.

North County High "is a little bit like a prison," said Hallermann.

"There are no windows open," she complained. "In Germany, we would have all the windows open. But here, if there are windows, they are shut."

The Germans have noted other differences: The pace of life here is faster and Americans love their sports and automobiles. Most people in Germany rely on bicycles or public transportation because gas is very expensive, they explained.

And "sports is certainly much more important than in our country and certainly in schools," said Joachim Fischer, 38, an English and music teacher at Rotteck, a school of about 700 in the Black Forest region of Germany.

There are no school sports teams in Germany, while school spirit in the United States revolves around sports teams and bands, TTC Fischer observed.

"I wondered if some of this could be transferred to our system. The idea is very appealing to me, to find your identity," he said.

The visitors are to return home Nov. 14. But before they go, they will share their experiences at a farewell party with some of North County High's 1,800 students.

And Fischer is planning to come back to the United States with another group of students in 1998. But before he does, he plans to study football and baseball, he said.

He has listened to Americans talk about the Orioles and the Ravens, but hasn't "a clue of what these people are talking about," he said.

"I feel excluded from an important part of everyday life here."

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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