Sixteen high school students from Heidenheim, Germany are visiting Grove City High School this month.
The Max Planck Gymnasium School and Grove City High School have participated in the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) exchange program for 29 years, said Will Kuhrt, a GCHS German teacher and exchange program advisor.
"Our two schools have the longest sustaining partnership under the program in the United States," Kuhrt said. "This year we're hosting the 16 students and we will be sending 16 students to Germany later this summer."
The goal of the program is for students from each country to experience the everyday life of their host families, learn more about the culture of the country they're visiting and immerse themselves into the daily classroom activities of their host school, he said.
During their 17 day visit, the German students also will check out some local attractions. They will tour the Ohio Statehouse and the Ohio State University campus, visit Crew Stadium and meet some Columbus Crew players, attend a golf clinic and play a round at Phoenix Golf Course.
"What both sets of students really get out of this program are life-long friendships," Kuhrt said. "We have students who participated in the exchange program 20 years ago who are still in contact and still visit each other."
The first marriage of students who participated in the Grove City-German exchange program will take place later this year, he said.
Visiting the United States is a valuable experience for the German students, said Erick Edler, an English/French teacher at Max Planck who is serving as one of two chaperones.
"We tell them to keep an open mind to what they will experience," she said. "I think they learn a lot from the way American students are so self-confident and the different way they talk to their teachers. They also get the chance to live with their host families and learn about American family life.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for them," Edler said.
More practically, the German students have the chance to improve their English speaking skills, she said.
On Friday, May 3, their second full day in Grove City, the German students were the guests of honor at a welcome party held at Bethel Lutheran Church next to the high school.
The event included dinner, a DJ and square dancing.
The Grove City students presented each visiting student with a schultute (German for "school cone.") Each contained gift items including pencils, candy, Grove City High School T-shirts, flags and other patriotic items, OSU stickers and a hockey puck from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Students from Max Planck said they were excited about their visit.
"I just wanted to come and learn so much about this country," Joerg Froehle said.
"I'm interested in seeking how Americans live and learn at school," Lisa Matejetmz said. "And I want to make a lot of new friends."
She also wants to eat American food.
"I really want to go to KFC because we don't have that back home," Matejetmz said.
Luise Eberhardt said she had found the United States to be much like she anticipated.
The neighborhoods in Grove City are different than those in her home town, Luise Eberhardt said.
"The houses are located further away from each other," she said. "There is more open space for people, and I like that."
But American seems surprisingly familiar to Lukas Eckardt.
"It all looks like 'typical America' to me," he said. "It looks a lot like America is portrayed in the movies."