Five exchange students from Germany — Oliver Wagner, Mikolaj Plewa, Annalena Kienle, Laetitia Altenburg, and Amelia Plewa — are at St. Mark's this spring as part of the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium-St. Mark's School exchange program. This is the 21st year that students from the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium in Munich have been coming to St. Mark's.
The Wittelsbacher Gymnasium-St. Mark's School exchange program came about as the result of a German student's one year stay at St. Mark's. Nikolaus Vitzthum spent his junior year here 1995 – 1996. While his father was here visiting Niko, he asked St. Mark's German teacher Lee Wells if she'd be interested in starting an exchange program with Niko's school. At that point, Wells had been trying to start an exchange program by working with the Goethe Institute on their GAPP program (German American Partnership Program). "GAPP wanted St. Mark's to establish an exchange program in which we would take 20 or more students a year," she recalls, "something that would be very difficult in a school our size and in a German program as small as ours. I was looking for a much smaller exchange. Niko's father provided me with a letter of introduction to the Director of the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium in Munich." Wells visited the Gymnasium in the summer of 1997. It was agreed to start small with two students from each school taking part in an exchange. The first German students came to St. Mark's in the spring of 1998. The program has always been very popular at the German school and is now very popular here, with 4-6 students going every year.
The visitors from Germany are fully involved with the St. Mark's community during their time in Southborough. Amelia and Annalena are living in Oak; Laetitia is in Pine; Oliver is staying in Marr; Mikolai is in Theriot. They attend classes regularly and are interested in learning lacrosse. They are paired with SM student hosts in the dorms and with SM student partners during the class day.
The five exchange students from Germany also went on field trips to Boston and to Newport, RI, (Munich is just north of the Bavarian Alps, so their exposure to the ocean and coastal communities has been limited) and they will spend Easter weekend with host families. They are pictured above on their recent excursion to Newport—from L to R: Oliver Wagner, Annalena Kienle, Mikolaj Plewa, Laetitia Altenburg, and Amelia Plewa.