Andrea Haas is trying to break down cultural barriers between the U.S. and Germany through old-fashioned correspondence.

Andrea Haas is trying to break down cultural barriers between the U.S. and Germany through old-fashioned correspondence.

Naturally, she's turning to German Village for help.

Haas, who's studying overseas as part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, has begun a pen-pal initiative that will allow people in the neighborhood to correspond with adults in Kredenbach, about an hour southeast of Bonn.

"It's just another way for them to learn about culture and not have stereotypes they get through music and TV," said Haas, who lives on the North Side.

Those interested in the pen-pal program can contact her at bigqlfan@hotmail.com.

The exchange, a full-year work study program also known as CBYX, requires a service project.

Haas, who graduated from high school last year, said German Village residents would be writing to other adults who can speak some English. She will be translating letters for those who struggle with the language. Meanwhile, students at her previous school, Godwin High School in Virginia, will correspond with students in her German school.

She said no topic is off limits: college experiences, relationships, occupation, family - everyday stories that help foster a mutual understanding of the world in which they live.

"It can be about anything, really," she said. "And they can ask questions, too."

Haas, 18, attends a high school in Kredenbach and plans to study art in the fall at Bowling Green State University. The letter-writing program will continue through the end of June, when she returns to the U.S. She said those who wish to keep writing can, and her high school German tutor will translate letters for people who need help.

She describes her experience as mostly good, with occasional pangs of homesickness. She stays with a friendly host family with three girls - two older and one younger - who have helped her assimilate the culture. As part of CBYX, she is prohibited from working and driving.

The language barrier was considerable at first, she said.

"I can carry on real conversations now," Haas said. "I used to not be able to."

Her classmates pepper her with questions about America, many of which have to do with pop cultural references they glean from MTV and music. One of their favorite programs is the sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother."

"I kind of knew for a while that I wanted to do pen pals, but when I started thinking about it, I thought it would be a good way to show the Americans how great the German culture is," she said. "And as I talked to more of my friends about America, I realized how little they actually knew that wasn't an extreme."

Lisa Haas, Andrea's mother, said the overseas experience has been good for her daughter.

"I feel like she's grown a lot, just in her confidence," she said.

Haas described her daughter as very organized and creative. She said Andrea is dedicated to making the letter-writing project a success.

"She's pretty determined when she gets an idea in her head," Haas said.