Hallo Löhne!

Former Mayor Thom Sowle is shown with Löhne’s former mayor. The framed photo was able to keep his presence in the Germany exchange program.

Marisol Macias, Feature Editor

  What would it be like to stay in another country and join a community as a host student? This October, twelve exchange students and two teachers from Grand Ledge’s partner school in Löhne, Germany traveled 4,068 miles to do exactly that. 

  Grand Ledge and Löhne’s partnership began with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which allows students of both countries the opportunity to experience the differing cultures of the other host. 1981 was the first year that students from Löhne traveled to Grand Ledge. Since then, those from both schools have created a number of memories with each year’s exchange. This year, many were excited to get back on track with the program, including GLHS German teacher, Frou Firtl, and even Mayor Thom Sowle before his passing. 

  “This year will be especially special because we’re dedicating a tree in memory of former Mayor Thom Sowle, that’s going to be planted by a ‘Löhne Drive’ sign that he was behind, naming after our sister city, and it’s out back by Beagle… because he was always a supporter of the program. He actually went and visited their [Löhne’s] mayor for the first time,” Firtl says. 

  During the week of October ninth, the students and their two accompanying teachers, Jorma Froman and Christine Müller joined GLHS as 2022’s German exchange group. “I’m also like, going to the classes of Anna and then sitting there and also trying to get some input from the lessons but sometimes it’s very difficult,” exchange student Lea Böckenstette says. “In general, it’s very different because we [in America] really have to participate in the lessons and say something with the teacher.” 

  These observations continue when it comes to cultural differences like everyday practices, especially when it comes to the practices of an American student. “I think school is harder in Germany; we’re not allowed to use our mobile phones when we do lessons. All of us [in America] are using them and all the teachers are using them…and have headphones on. It’s quite different from Germany,” exchange student Tom Kenkel says. 

  Recognizing and embracing these differences is what makes the Grand Ledge/Löhne program so memorable for all. School is really only a portion of the full experience. “I think in the beginning it’s very difficult because it’s like a new family, and you really have to get to know new persons…and I think, very good for the personal development,” Böckenstette says. 

  Personal development is evident in both the exchange student and the hosts. “You have to have a basic understanding of the language,” says GLHS Junior Caden Hoskins. “…If there’s a word that needs translated, you have to have a general idea of the concepts…. I can understand some basic ideas and stuff and it helps a lot.”

  After another successful exchange, future hosting opportunities are in the works! Ask anyone who’s participated before and they’re sure to recommend it.