STEVENSVILLE — Several Lakeshore High School students can now say they have second families in Germany.

More than 20 students participated in the Sister School Exchange Program between their high school and Gesamtschule Hardt in Mönchengladbach, Germany, this past school year. Some of the students traveled to Germany, others hosted German students in their homes in Stevensville and some did both.

Alaina Kinney, who teaches English at the high school, said this is the first time a program like this has been done at Lakeshore.

First, the German students came to Michigan for three weeks. Then, a few weeks ago, 18 Lakeshore students traveled to Germany for three weeks.

“I don’t think any of us knew what to expect,” senior Maria Laskowski said.

Junior Sage Feldbruegge said she learned that cultural competency is very important.

“Before going to Germany, we had a lot of stereotypes – pretzels and bratwursts and lederhosen,” she said. “I can tell you that I only had sauerkraut once.”

She said it was totally different from what she expected.

“I think it’s important to break away from those stereotypes and be able to learn about different countries,” she said. “It was learning through assimilation.”

She said exploring other cultures gives kids a chance to think outside of themselves.

“You’re fostering the future leaders of the world because you’re giving kids an opportunity to get out of Michigan, get out of Stevensville, and be connected with the world,” she said.

Senior Carter Welch said he’s been to Germany before as a tourist, but living with a host family is different.

He said the experience was so positive that the German student he was partnered with is coming back to Michigan this summer with four other German students.

Feldbruegge said they bonded not just with the German students, but with their families.

Kinney said since the students lived with their host families, they developed a much deeper understanding of German culture.

Amy Perkins, a history teacher at Lakeshore, said the high school is participating in the program again next year, and then every other year after that.

She said the trip was made affordable by grants from the Lakeshore Excellence Foundation, Lakeshore Rotary Club and the German American Partnership Program through the Goethe-Institut. She said support from the Lakeshore school board trustees also was critical. 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege