Members of the German Exchange Program at Walled Lake Northern High School take a group shot at the school Sept. 27.

Members of the German Exchange Program at Walled Lake Northern High School take a group shot at the school Sept. 27.

Photo provided by Walled Lake Consolidated Schools


German Exchange Program forms friendships at Walled Lake Northern

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 12, 2018

 From left, Sybille Matley, a teacher from Germany; Kaye Lynn Mazurek, a Walled Lake Northern High School German teacher; and Christina Esterle, a teacher from Germany, take a photo.

From left, Sybille Matley, a teacher from Germany; Kaye Lynn Mazurek, a Walled Lake Northern High School German teacher; and Christina Esterle, a teacher from Germany, take a photo.

Photo provided by Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The German Exchange Program at Walled Lake Northern High School is in full bloom.

Kaye Lynn Mazurek, a WLNHS teacher, said that the German Exchange Program has grown and doubled in size during its 14-year partnership with a school, Mörike Gymnasium, in Esslingen, Germany.

She said that during the first year of hosting the German Exchange Program, 12 German students attended through a German-based school partnership.

“The program has grown since then,” she said, adding that 24 German students and two teachers visited this year. “Every other year, students come during the fall. And we go the next summer once we are off school — usually June, July we go.”

The exchange students and teachers arrived Sept. 13 and stayed for approximately three weeks.

Mazurek said that last year when WLNHS students visited Germany through the program, 31 students participated.

“It is a popular program,” she said. “This is such an important experience.”

Mazurek said that exchange students who visit WLNHS gain improved English skills, and the students can take classes that are not typically offered in their homeland.

“Like U.S. history, some of the physical education, and art and music classes that they don’t have in their school,” she said, adding that one of her jobs is to coordinate field trips that show the students the history and culture of Michigan. “We go up to Mackinac … went to the Capitol building in Lansing, went to downtown Detroit and had a walking tour … anything Michigan.”

Exchange students also had a “Day in the D,” which began with a group visit and tour of the Bosch Group in Farmington Hills. During the tour, students learned about technology solutions that affect people at home, work and in their cars, according to a press release. While in Detroit, students also toured famous landmarks including the Heidelberg Project, Jack White’s Third Man Records and Ford Field, the release states.

The German students left in early October.

WLNHS 11th-grader Ana Parker hosted an exchange student at her home. The duo took field trips to places including Traverse City, Lansing and Ann Arbor.

“I will be visiting Germany over the summer of 2019 with our American exchange group,” she said in an email. “This is my first year being a part of the German Exchange Program.”

She added that she made it a goal to learn a few new words each day during the exchange.

“So that I made just (more) of an effort to speak German, as they spoke English,” she said.

She was impressed to see how well the German students spoke English, that they knew a lot of American music, and that they spoke other languages besides German and English.

“They have such a diverse culture that they have more opportunities to learn foreign languages, being that the countries are so close over in Europe,” Parker said.

Parker realized from the German students’ encounter with America that “everything here is bigger.”

“Between the school, stores and restaurants. (There) is more of a variety of department stores that Germany does not have, like the dollar store, Target, JCPenney’s, Walmart, Costco and restaurants,” she said. “The sense of history is a totally different term in Europe overall.”

Mazurek said in a press release that the school-to-school exchange allows classroom learning to “come alive” as students use the language and experience the culture firsthand.

“The friendships they form last a lifetime, and the exchange is an important, integral part of our German program in Walled Lake,” she said.

Students in the exchange program also experience daily life with their host families and attend classes and school events.

WLNHS 10th-grader David Patrascu explained in an email his interest in the exchange.

“I’ve never visited Germany, so I thought that this could be a learning experience for me, and I could get to know a little bit more about the culture of the language that I have been learning,” he said. He has been in the German Exchange Program since last year.

“The biggest learning experience that I have encountered was really seeing how similar our group was to theirs,” Patrascu said. “We had almost all of the same interests, same taste in music, and I was really surprised at how everyone got along so well with each other. They also let me experience their culture firsthand, and I learned what clothing brands are popular there and what they like to do for fun. I got close with many of the students, and I probably won’t forget this experience for a really long time.”

Sara Malak, a WLNHS sophomore, said in an email that a student  from Esslingen came to stay with her family for about three weeks.

“She assimilated into my family very well, and we loved having her,” Malak said. “We tried to show her as many things about where we live and how we live as we could.”

Malak, who has not yet visited Germany, plans to go to her exchange student’s home and stay with her family for about a month for the next phase of the program in June.

“We are very excited for this time and can’t wait to see each other again, but we keep in touch for now via texting and social media.”

For more information on the high school, go to wlcsd.org/schools/high-school/northern-hs.