German exchange students wrap up program at Knoch High School
SAXONBURG — Few towns in the United States, if any, are as German to the core as Saxonburg, and this extends to the town’s school district.
Since the 1970s, more than a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Knoch High School has welcomed students from Germany as part of the German American Partnership Program. Once every two years since 2011, Knoch hosts students from FOSBOS Weiden secondary school in the town of Weiden in der Oberpfalz in Bavaria.
For the start of this school year, a group of 10 students from FOSBOS Weiden made the trip across the Atlantic to Pennsylvania as part of a cultural exchange program. The German contingent have spent the past two weeks attending classes at Knoch High School, while also taking in American culture, both within and beyond Butler County.
During their trip, each of the 10 German travelers stayed at the home of the family of a Knoch student who served as their partner. Two months from now, the 10 Knoch students will head to Bavaria for their student trip, staying at the homes of the Germans they themselves hosted earlier this month.
Knoch High School principal Todd Trofimuk oversees the biannual German exchange program. This year, his son, Kannon, served as the sponsor and host student for Felix Enzmann.
“There’s very great nature here. The people are also very nice here and very friendly,” Enzmann said. “We also get to know a new culture.”
During their two-week American trip, the German contingent toured the sights and sounds of Saxonburg and Butler County, took in one of the Knoch Knights’ football games, and even crossed the Canadian border to visit Niagara Falls.
It wasn’t all play, however. The German students did go to school with their Knoch counterparts during this time, attending a variety of classes.
“I was in the English class. We learned some new vocabulary,” said Enzmann. “I've also been to the German class, which was really fun to me because I knew all the German words.”
Some of the German students admitted to experiencing some culture shock once arriving in America, particularly when they experienced the structure of American high school classes.
“It was very unusual. I'm not used to the structures here,” said exchange student Christina Neumeier. “They have the same classes every day. That was weird to me in the beginning, but I’m used to it now.”
Wednesday, Sept. 13, was the German students’ last day attending Knoch High School before heading back to Germany. Ironically, as is usually the case with foreign-exchange trips, it was just as they were starting to adjust to American culture that their trip came to an end.
“The people are very open and talkative here, which is not usual in Germany,” said Neumeier. “I feel like I'm getting used to it now, but we're leaving soon.”
However, it won’t be long before the groups of students meet again. Two months from now, over Thanksgiving weekend, the roles will be reversed, as the Knoch students will head to Bavaria to complete their role in the exchange by staying at the homes of their partner students and attending school in Weiden.
“I’ll be staying at Felix's house in Bavaria and seeing what he does every day … his routine,” Kannon said.