Around the world in 90 minutes

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 6, 2012

Students in China study longer.

Germans and Chinese teens can’t drive until 18.

Students in China and Germany both have larger homework loads than their American counterparts.

And in Germany, the school year doesn’t always end at the same time of year, so its length can vary by up to two months.

“Our summer holidays always start at a different time each year,” said Andrew Jankowski, a teacher at Sibylla-Merian-Gymnasium Meinersen, a German school whose students visited Lake Shore Public Schools from Oct 12-27. “They don’t want everyone in Germany to start their six-week holiday at the same time.”

And while that surprised American and Chinese students (the Germans were surprised Americans get a three-month break), those sort of tidbits were the reason for the Lake Shore International Student Summit Oct. 22.

That afternoon, 42 students from St. Clair Shores, China and Germany came together to learn more about each other, from whether the Chinese boarding school students pull pranks on each other (no), to whether people in those countries believe in UFOs or aliens (no), and if they follow the same world news events (yes).

“It’s cool because now we will learn something about the different cultures and that will be wonderful,” said 17-year-old Maja Schunter, a German 11th-grade student.

“It’s really great because I don’t know that much about China, and so it’s really interesting,” agreed her classmate, 17-year-old Annika Lietz.

The summit was developed as a way for the visiting students, and those from Lake Shore, to get to know more about each other. Eighty-eight students from the Beijing Haidian Foreign Language Shi Yan School are spending the year attending Lake Shore High School and staying at the Taylor International School.

Those students said they were glad to get to know the German students, too.

“German kids, they are a little bit quiet,” said 15-year-old Wang Panyne, a Chinese 11th-grader. “Their language is different from learning the textbooks. Expressions, we can never figure out unless we talk to them.”

The Chinese students said that electronics on this side of the ocean are much cheaper than at home. They and the German students said clothes are less expensive in America, too.

Donald Kling, assistant superintendent of administrative services and operations for Lake Shore Public Schools, said they were happy to make a connection with the German public day school through teacher Marco Harms and hope to continue the partnership.

Lake Shore is planning to take a trip with high school German language students in 2014 and “they’ve already talked about coming back in 2015.”

Lake Shore High School offers language courses in Mandarin, German and Spanish. Kling said he’s trying to make contact with some Spanish schools to expand the exchange program.

“It’s, like, fun. It’s good for everyone to get to know about different countries,” said Lake Shore High School senior Carly Farkas.

But, she said, the exchange program does have a small downside — “Physically, it gets really crowded in our school.”

A fellow classmate, however, said she’s happy to have more options.

“It’s really easy to relate with (Kira-Sophie Kothe),” the 16-year-old German student Rene Kiss is hosting for the two-week visit. “We found we have a lot in common.

“It’s fun to have someone on the other side of the world.”