Hudson High Invades Germany
by Ryan Leahy
Friendships that will last a lifetime were made when HHS students ventured across an ocean and met their hosts that would be housing them for the next week.
A group of 18 students ranging from freshmen to seniors traveled to Germany during April vacation. I was lucky enough to be one of those 18 students on the trip. Media teacher Scott Darlington, Spanish teacher Gretchen Houseman and Hudson High’s principal Brian Reagan were the chaperones on the trip and booked events when the German students came to the U.S.
This trip was part of a German exchange between Hudson High School and Gymnasium Julianum. The group of German students came to Hudson High during the fall.
Hudson students left for Germany on Wednesday, April 11. After a six hour overnight airplane ride to Frankfort, Germany, the students boarded another plane for their hour long trip to Hannover.
“Our first time flyer, Josh [ in ironic fashion], was the first to fall asleep. An in-flight movie of The Muppets entertained those in the group who were sleep deprived, while a select few found the inner peace necessary to sleep on a crowded plane,” wrote Darlington.
After the long airplane journey, the students took another long bus ride to Helmstedt, Germany, where the school is located and they were picked up by their host families. The kids were paired up based on their interests and family life. The housing situations for each student varied from houses in the middle of villages to farms in the outskirts.
“My host family could not speak English, so it was hard to communicate with them. But overall, they were really nice. My host’s name was Marvin and we had a lot in common. We spent the weekend playing games with his friends,” said junior Nate Otenti.
Some families lived in the middle of the villages and others on farms. This affected what they did with their host families; many went out and explored the villages, but others who were not as centrally located stayed home. Spending a week in another person’s home requires the person to get really close to their host.
I lived on a farm, which was a different experience for me, but we could not do as much as everyone else. Usually, I stayed in with my host, Anne, and we watched “Navy CIS,” but it was fun because I got to know her and her family. I watched a lot of German TV and found that it is very similar to the U.S. Anne was really nice and we definitively became friends.
The next day, students took a tour of Falconstein castle, a medieval castle that originates from the words falcon and stone. The castle used to hold hunts for kings and trained falcons to hunt with them. They were able to look at the mountains from the highest point at the castle.
“We don’t have castles in America, or really anything over four hundred years old so it was wonderful to see the jaw dropping beauty of this incredibly old castle. The age of knights may be dead, but this castle still stands on as a reminder of a different time,” wrote Kyah Eichholz.
There was no touring of castles during the weekend, but the students got to spend quality time with their host families. Many went to the Autostat, an amusement park and even a chocolate factory and learned more about who they were staying with. The teachers toured different places around Germany.
“Just as we became accustomed to traveling as a group and performing our alphabet roll-call in public, we parted ways to each spend time getting to know our host families and learning what is unique about their lives, or what they feel Germany has to offer. Today Mr. Reagan, Mr. Darlington and I spent time with several different people who taught us about Germany’s past,” wrote Houseman.
The most powerful day throughout vacation was on April 16, where the students went to Bergen-Belsen, the camp where Anne Frank died. It was powerful seeing the mass graves, pictures and videos detailing what happened at the camp. Many of the students were shaken up after seeing it.
“For me, being in the place where the Holocaust occurred and seeing the uncensored images of it made me wonder how anyone could commit an act so horrid that it reduced people to shadows of their former selves. There was a video of a survivor and she said one sentence that will stick with me for a long time. She said ‘I saw dead people and I did not care, I did not care about who they were or why they were there and I did not even care if I died,’” wrote Tristan Sherrell.
After going to the camp, the group went to Minuture Wunderland, a place that housed miniature models of major cities. A whole wing was dedicated to Las Vegas.
The night was spent not at the host’s house, but in a hostel in Hamburg. The very next day, the students went on a walking tour of the city and stood at the top of an old church named St. Michelis, which had a great view of the city.
“Life in Hamburg really reminded me at least of certain cities that are in the US. Hamburg is more of a rich community and more well off than some of the surrounding cities, so it was really neat to see. Culturally, it was really cool to be in Hamburg,” wrote Jake Roach.
Berlin is home to a lot of history. The group was able to see the Berlin wall, checkpoint Charlie, a memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Hitler’s bunker and the DDR museum, which showed the history of when the Communists ruled over East Berlin.
“Overall, the trip to Berlin was a very eye opening experience for all of us involved. As students, we learn about it in school, but it never really hits home as much as it did during our trip. I learned a lot about German history today that I did not know before. From seeing signs that were around during this time of war, to seeing bullet holes in historical landmarks, I can truly appreciate what went on in Berlin and how it changed the world,” wrote Nate Otenti.
“People in America have enjoyed these rights since the 1700′s, so I can’t imagine having to live without them until 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. This museum was really eye opening to the effects of communism on the population and I think it was a very interesting trip,” wrote Eric Davis.
The last day of sightseeing was on Thursday, April 19, in Hannover. The group of Hudson High students toured the New Town Hall or the Rathaus and learned of Hannover’s history, from when it was a thriving city to rebuilding after being completely destroyed by the Allies during WWII. They went up the world’s only curved elevator to the top of the dome. After, they walked around the city and found a large market with many different places to eat.
“Also inside of the Rathaus there was a curved elevator going up to the top of the dome. This elevator scared a lot of the people in our group for multiple reasons. It was a very small elevator, also on the bottom and top was a glass floor so you could see yourself dropping and rising,” wrote Nick Ellis.
Friday, the final day of the trip, was a sad and tiring day for everyone. Students woke up at four o’clock German time to make their flight and it was the last time that they would see their hosts. Many hugs were given out and tears shed as they departed for the airport.
“Ming and I are bros. I will miss him and it is unfortunate that he is in a different country,” said sophomore Marc Deleppo.
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