Photo of Rothenberg ab der tauber during a local student group’s tour of Germany during June and July. Photo by Horst Malunat.
An exchange between a school in Germany and Toledo and Onalaska schools came true for nine THS students last month. The trip was a dream come true for many of the students, who had their first significant travel experience.
THS German language teacher Horst Malunat said that the program is amazing for the kids and what is even better is students from Germany will come to visit and attend classes in Toledo and Onalaska this fall.
The program originates at the Goethe Institute and is called the German/American Partnership Program.
The Toledo High School students that went on the trip included Brain Osborne, Riley Bowen, Anthony Wade, Hailey Overby, Emily Robbins, Karlee Coverdell, Jessica Buckbee, Katherine Haas and Nathan Scott
"Germany was the best thing I've ever experienced, everything is so different and I'm so happy I got to do it," said Toledo student Hailey Overby. "I enjoyed every minute of it, but my favorite part was being able to watch Germany win the World Cup."
The World Cup and this particular trip were a common thread. By no coincidence, Malunat is also both the girls and boys soccer coach for Toledo/Winlock United, and has many relatives from throughout Germany. If the students didn't feel the passion of the worlds' game from him, there was always the rest of Germany.
“Some of my greatest memories in Germany involved the World Cup," said Toledo student Bryan Osborne. “We went to a fan mile in Berlin as a group to watch Germany play France, and then later I was in Bayreuth when Germany beat Argentina to win the World Cup."
While in Berlin, they joined 70,000 spectators to watch the quarter-final game between Germany and France.
"It was great for our kids to see how the rest of the world reacts to soccer," said Malnaut.
Osborne tried to explain what it was like but eventually ran out of analogies.
“It was incredible getting to be in Germany when Germany won,” he said. “There isn't any way to describe what that was like. It was sort of like when Seattle won the Super Bowl plus Marti Gras, times 100. Nothing really compares to it. It was by far the biggest celebration I have ever seen."
Despite the added bonus of soccer fever, another common thread for each of the travelers were the people.
The bulk of their time was spent in Bayreuth, a city in central Germany’s Bavaria region, where the students attended school with their hosts for two weeks.
"I loved my exchange partner and her friends and it was very sad for all of us when we left," said Toledo High School graduate Karlee Coverdell. "I am so excited for them to come here in September".
"It will definitely be the people we met there that I will remember most," added Osborne. "In the short few weeks we were there, we all made some amazing new friends. There is no way that any of us will ever forget the memories we made there."
In the process of settling in to local culture, the group visited the Wurzburg Marionberg Castle, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Berlin, Bamberg, Weimer and Buchenwald, among many other famous locations.
"That kind of hands-on history is something you just can't learn from books," said Malunat. "There is nothing I could ever do in the classroom to replicate this experience."
The seeds have certainly been planted as Overby is considering a return to Germany. "We've been talking about me going back to Germany in January-June for a half year exchange program and thinking about doing college there when I graduate," she says.
Of course, Malnaut is considering how to use the testimony of these kids to spread the word about an exchange in 2016. There is certainly not going to be an argument against going on the next exchange from this group of students.
Toledo students bowl with their German counterparts in Bayreuth during their three-week tour of Gemany in June and July. The students are left to right, Back row: Hanna Masel, Theresa Dahl, Antonia Eichermüller, Emily Davis, Cecilja Böhm, Riley Bowen, Brian Osborn, Jonathan Schwemmer. Front: Hailey Overby, Sara Bubmann. Photo courtesy of Hailey Overby.