Six exchange students from Germany—Salma Boushib, Carlotta Havener, Isabella Schepanek, Valentin Fischer, Daniel Seitz, and Georg von Poblotzki—are at St. Mark's for 18 days this spring as part of the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium-St. Mark's School exchange program. This is the 22nd 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," recalled Ms. Wells, "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 four to six students going every year.
This year's visitors from Germany are fully involved with the St. Mark's community during their time in Southborough, living in dormitories, attending classes, and taking part in a variety of activities. They are paired with St. Mark's student hosts in the dorms and with St. Mark's student partners during the class day. This year their visit is being facilitated by German teacher Daniel Mertsch.
The five exchange students from Germany also went on field trips to Boston and to Cambridge. They particularly enjoyed visiting the mall. Over Easter, two of them stayed with s St. Mark's family, to celebrate and get some time away from school. In the German classroom, they have become the native speaking experts for Mr. Mertsch's students when working on tasks together. Both groups also taught each other common slang words and expressions in the form of a Kahoot quiz.
It has been a successful visit for Salma, Carlotta, Valentin, Isabella, Daniel, and Georg. They will be leaving St. Mark's and heading home to Germany on Monday, April 29. They have enjoyed making new friends, participating in classes and other opportunities at an American school, learning local customs, and walking downtown to Mauro's for a snack and a soda.
A group of St. Mark's students will visit them at Wittelsbacher in Munich this summer, when St. Markers are on break but the German students are still in school.