Bert Church High School hosts German exchange students
The Bert Church High School German exchange program is creating lasting friendships this year.
Sophie Merz, a 15-year-old exchange student from Bavaria, Germany, and Bert Church High School host student Chase Welch, 16, were all smiles and nervous giggles as they sat down for an interview with Airdrie City View.
The pair has clearly bonded since Merz arrived in Airdrie on Aug. 20, for a nearly three-month exchange trip and when asked if they get along, the two mock fight and jokingly tease that they can’t stand each other.
Another good indicator the two are enjoying their time together is that Merz said she’s not missing her family much because she is having too much fun to miss them. However, she does occasionally Skype with her family back home and texts them frequently through an application called What’s App – an international texting program.
“Since Grade 7, I knew I wanted to do an exchange,” said Merz, who is now in Grade 10.
She said she spoke with friends who have taken part in exchange programs about their adventures, including one girl who came to Airdrie.
“I wanted to do an English exchange,” Merz said, adding the Airdrie trip seemed like a good fit.
The German student, who speaks fluent English, has been taking English classes since Grade 3 but said she really didn’t start grasping the language until Grade 5.
Welch became involved in the program when she began taking a German class at Bert Church High School last year.
“I thought it would be helpful in the future for my career,” Welch, who is considering a career in aviation, said of learning another language.
Bert Church German teacher Jason Burns said the exchange program allows students from both countries to come back with a better understanding of themselves and their country.
He added the exchange also makes students want to learn more German.
He said the program is a reciprocal one and the host families cover all living costs. Flights are paid for by the students family.
Since Merz’s arrival, Welch and her family have shown the exchange student much of the beauty of the area including Ghost Dam in Cochrane and Moraine Lake in Banff National Park.
“I liked everything,” Merz said of the experiences she’s had on her trip so far. “I really liked Banff and the Rocky Mountains.”
Merz was also taken to a nearby Hutterite colony where the locals speak a dialect of German known as Hutterite German.
However, the dialect is quite different than that of the German Merz speaks and though the Hutterite’s tried to communicate with her, it was largely lost in translation.
Welch has shown her German friend the city life and has taken her to Chinook Mall in Calgary and to CrossIron Mills mall in Balzac to shop, and to the rides at Calaway Park.
“I also like the malls,” Merz said, adding back home they don’t have anything nearly as big as Alberta malls.
The German student, who is attending regular classes at Bert Church, said she is also enjoying the option classes students have at the school and really likes the freedom to move about and play games in drama class.
“I like not just sitting there and listening to a teacher,” she said.
Merz said she finds the classes in Canada are longer than what she is used to back home.
“I don’t know if I like it that you have longer classes,” she said. “In some subjects it’s fun, like in drama, but in subjects like English it’s really long.”
Merz said in Germany the classes are 45 minutes long, compared to the 88-minute classes here.
She said she also likes all the technology used at the school, including the personally owned devices like tablets and that she is impressed by the library.
Welch, who will be travelling to stay with Merz in Germany from Feb. 28 to May 24, said she has already learned a lot about German life from Merz, including that Germany has different bread than we have, something that seemed to greatly amuse the girls.
She said she is looking forward to the tour she will have while in Bavaria and expanding her language skills.
“Of course I’m looking forward to talking about Canada in German,” she added.
Until then, the two said they will enjoy the remainder of their time together here in Airdrie and will text once Sophie returns home in November.