Visiting German students get up-close look at American life

Neighbors

April 19, 2000|By Donna Koros Stramella | Donna Koros Stramella,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TWENTY TEEN-AGERS visiting Glen Burnie are finding communication a breeze -- despite the fact that English is not their native tongue, and they live an ocean away.

The students are from Germany and arrived last week for an exchange program that will give them an up-close look at American life. They are staying with the families of students enrolled in the German language program at Glen Burnie High School.

The German students, most of whom have been studying English since fourth grade, are getting plenty of practice here.

Maxi Stockhammer is staying with Dallas and Susan Renninger and their daughter, Lindsay, in the Shannon Square community of Glen Burnie. This is the first trip to the United States for the 16-year-old German girl, although her parents have visited this country. Before the exchange program, some of her impressions of the United States came from movies like "Home Alone" and "Sleepless in Seattle."

She says her school, Neue Oberschule, is much different from Glen Burnie High.

"The school in Germany is much quieter," she says. "The school is much smaller there, and the day is shorter. But they do have the 13th year."

The German school has an enrollment of about 700, compared with the more than 2,100 at Glen Burnie.

Family life is a bit different as well. At home, her father is a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and she describes her mother as "the head of the household" -- or, as they say in America, a homemaker.

"At home, the family are doing a lot of things together -- even in the afternoons and on the weekends -- like playing sports," she says. She was surprised to see members of the family here doing activities separately.

Despite societal differences, Maxi and Lindsay bonded quickly.

"We have a lot in common," Lindsay said. "We both play sports. Although she plays tennis and golf, and I play softball and basketball."

The German students have been busy during their two-week stay. Along with attending classes at Glen Burnie, they have visited the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry, Annapolis and other local tourist spots.

But the biggest hit was probably an evening trip to Marley Station Mall. Maxi also attended a reception at Martin's West last week, where Lindsay was honored with a J. C. Penney Golden Rule Award for her volunteer efforts with the American Red Cross and Happy Helpers for the Homeless.

The Renningers are not strangers when it comes to German culture. Now retired, Dallas Renninger was assigned to Germany several times during his Army career. The family lived there on three tours. But, SusanRenninger says she recalls only a couple of words and phrases.

Fortunately, Maxi's English is excellent.

"It's no problem to speak fluently," Maxi said. "We are making a lot of mistakes, but that doesn't matter."

The tables will be turned this summer, when Lindsay will have an opportunity to test her German skills. Ten to 15 Glen Burnie High students will visit Germany from June 20 to July 17, living with the families of the students now staying in their homes. German language teacher Jolene Grimmer will accompany her students.

"There will be some travel, but mostly the students will live with the host families, so they can use what they've learned in class," Grimmer said.

The exchange trips occur about every two years. For more information on the program, call Jolene Grimmer at 410-761-8950, Ext. 294.

North Arundel bazaar

The North Arundel Hospital Auxiliary will hold its annual Easter Bazaar from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow in the hospital lobby.

Baked goods, plants and crafts will be sold. Proceeds benefit the auxiliary's $500,000 pledge to the Emergency Care for Life Campaign -- for the hospital's Emergency Department.

The auxiliary has raised more than $350,000 toward the pledge.

Information: 410-787-4504.

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