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Exchange students return from German visit

The front entrance has been closed to the public due to renovations. Temporary offices have been set up in the auditorium. | Special to the Enquirer

What Hartselle High School students discovered during their exchange trip to Germany was interesting to say the least and something they’ll never forget.

The 20 students and their two chaperones, HHS principal Jeff Hyche and teacher Beth Long returned to Hartselle Saturday night after spending two weeks in the homes of German families whose children were visitors to Hartselle in May.

Junior Preston Adams stayed with the Junge family. The father was a carpenter and the mother a school guidance counselor. They had two sons, Max, Preston’s exchange partner, and a younger brother, Felix.

“They are a close family,” Preston pointed out. “The mother cooks all of their meals from scratch and they all sit down and eat together. They pass food around a bowl at a time and spend an hour after the meal talking about how each person’s day went.

Their emphasis is on academics, not sports,” he added, “but they’re equal to us as far as electronic communication is concerned. They all have I-pods,  Internet service and Face Book. We’ve made a lot of friends and I’m sure we’ll continue to communicate with one another.”

“It was interesting to see how they live,” said Blair Sittason, a visitor of the Baumgarten family. “They eat a lot of sausage with their meals and they do a lot of walking. That’s probably because you can’t get a drivers license until you’re 18.

“We got to tour a World War II concentration camp where the U-2 rocket was developed. That was pretty cool. My exchange partner and his 13-year-old brother also spent one day at a water park. It was similar to Point Mallard but it was indoors. The temperature there ranged from a low of 50 at night to a high of 70 in the daytime.”

“I liked their school. Blair added. “It was similar to a college. The students are allowed to hang out or go home when they’re not scheduled to be in class.”

Aaron Lamb said the mother of his exchange partner didn’t speak much English and communicating with her was like playing a game of Charades.

He also commented on differences between the U. S. and Germany.

“Every car I saw was very small,” he said. They walk, ride bikes, buses and trains a lot.  There were no fast food restaurants in the town where we stayed. The nearest thing to a fast food dish I tried was chopped up beef or chicken served in a bowl of vegetables. Their food as a whole is a lot heavier than ours and fills up faster.

“They play a lot of soccer and there’s not much interest in other sports. “We got up some games with our exchange partners and even won a game. Then, they recruited some of the best players in their school and we didn’t have a chance to beat them.”

“It was a great experience,” said Hartselle High Principal Jeff Hyche. “The kids had a blast and made many lifelong friends.”

Group tours for student included a visit to the a World War II concentration camp in Berlin where the U-2 rocket was developed, an excursion into an underground mine, a tour of a Volkswagen manufacturing plant and a tour of a medieval village.

“Everything is set up for repeat exchange nest year,” Hyche said.