There and GAPP Again

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Thirty German students arrived at Cam High as the first exchange of the German-American Partnership Program, or GAPP, began on Wednesday, October 19. After three weeks of being in Camarillo, the German exchange students will then return to Germany on Monday, November 7.

This year, the American students will depart for Germany two days after graduating in June, instead of during Spring Break as they did in past years. “Teachers give spring break work a lot of the time. Since we’ve already graduated, it’s a lot of stress that’s gonna be off and going to Germany would be more of a vacation sort of thing rather than to focus on school. So it’ll be nice,” said Vincent Belvedere, senior.

The Cam High German class participates in the program every other year, assigning 30 selected students based on recommendations, interviews, and more, to a German partner. The students spend three weeks in their partners’ country, encouraging exposure to each respective culture and language. “That’s like the perfect way to wrap up my whole high school experience- going off to a new country,” said Maddi Boulais, senior.

Mrs. Heidi Kuehn, German teacher at Cam High, is one of the main supervisors for the program. “[Planning everything] is pretty stressful. It’s pretty challenging, and thankfully I have a lot of teachers helping me. Mr. [Jon] McFarland at Pacifica is very involved and very, very helpful. Mr. [Jochen] Maier is very helpful and a couple of the parents have really stepped up to the plate this year,” she said.

The day the exchange students arrived, Cam High students waited in front of the high school for their partners. “I finally get to meet my partner, it’s been like a year or almost a year so it’s great to finally see her and meet her. It’s gonna be a great three weeks,” said senior Max Ortgies.

Last March, a few GAPP students were interviewed about what they’ll expect when the German students arrive. A week before the Germans arrived, the Cam High students once again shared their preparation and expectations for the first leg of this year’s program.

For about six months, the students have been communicating with their German partners through social media apps to figure out each other’s interests. “We contact [each other] through WhatsApp, and we have a giant GAPP group message,” senior Annabel Kim said. “I talk to my partner individually, too. We share stories and talk to each other.”

The students said that it is important to make sure the exchange student is comfortable in their new home in terms of allergies, diets, and other preferences. “This week it’s been really hectic because we’ve been preparing [my partner’s] room and we’ve been cleaning the house and I’ve been asking her if she’s allergic to anything,” said Sally Cela, senior at Cam High.

After “shadowing” their American partners on their first day at Cam High, the German students received a new class schedule. During their time at Cam High, the German student must present a topic, in English, in front of any of their classes. The American students will do the same when they leave for Germany in June.

While in Camarillo, the German exchange students will participate in various activities including visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland, the Ronald Reagan Library, and more. “We organize a bunch of field trips. There’s like a lot of stuff we’re gonna be doing,” said Belvedere.

Kuehn said that her favorite aspect of the program is helping the students explore new places. “One of my favorite moments when we give [the German students] the campus tour is when I take them up to the top of the hill and they look down over the stadium. [Many of them] cannot believe that a public high school has a stadium like Cam High’s, because in Germany they don’t have competitive sports in their school system,” she said.

The Cam High students are looking forward to their experience. “I think that GAPP will really have an impact in my life because […] you get to experience the culture hands-on, and live in their house and go to their school, so it’s really cool,” said Cela.

“I want to go and take a risk because this whole thing kind of scares me. I think that it’s important to go out and do things you’re afraid of to be more of a well-rounded person, especially with the cultural difference,” said Boulais. “I think experiencing that other culture will make me more aware of how the world is, not just in my little American bubble that a lot of us live in.”