Geist of Programs Past


Dominic Balesteri-Fox

City High students have chalked sidewalk on campus in protest of the announcement that the German language program will be phased out of the ICCSD's class offerings.

Victor Fesenmeyer, Reporter

For 26 years, City High has participated in the cross-cultural interaction between students from City and from Germany. However, due to budget cuts in the ICCSD language departments, the tradition may soon be lost.

Die Deutsche Schuler sind ins America kommen, aber für die letzte zeit? It may very well be the last time. Many City High German students have been asking this question for a long time now. Due to a budget cut set and finalized in April of 2014, the entirety of the Iowa City German program is destined to be phased out by the end of the 2016-17 school year. With this development, the excitement of having the ethnic German students visiting has become bittersweet.

“When the German program is phased out, there will be fewer options for students to choose; less variety,” Miles Miller ‘16 said.

Miller participated in the 2013-14 exchange.

“All of the students who would have wanted to take German now don’t have that choice. This will put more pressure on the Spanish and French teachers,” Miller said.

In order to have a GAPP, or German American Partnership Program, it is necessary to have a German language program.

“Maintaining a GAPP program would be difficult because it would be harder to gather student’s interest if they don’t know the language,“ Casey Wilmesmeier, the German teacher at City High, said.

City High has participated in the GAPP for 26 years, starting in the 1989-90 school year, the year the Berlin Wall fell. It has been a large part of the excitement and incentive for taking German as a foreign language study.

This year, the 18 German foreign exchange students who were selected out of two schools with about 100 total applicants. They hail from Bückeburg and Stadthagen, two towns in Lower Saxony. The students arrived on October 26th, and will depart November 10th. Each of the students are matched with a City High German student host family. During their stay in Iowa City, the host students and families will provide their German guests the opportunity to experience all sides of American culture.

“It’s a chance for students to see what real student life is like in Germany and America,” Wilmesmeier said. “It’s a safe and non-intimidating introduction into international culture.”

Throughout their two-week stay in Iowa City, the Germans and their hosts will take several field trips to notable locations around the city and the county, such as The University of Iowa, the Old Capitol, Field of Screams, Iowa State High School football playoffs, among others.

“I think that the German students will really want to go to the mall and experience shopping here,” Emily Bywater ‘17, a City High German Three student said. “When I was in Germany last summer, a lot of my friends on the trip wanted to experience shopping there, so I think the Germans will have similar feelings.”

Host families are also planning experiences hoping to give the students a taste of  the Midwestern culture with various food experiences, including: school events, trick or treating, Iowa Football, City High Theatre, and the Ped Mall, and shopping, to name a few.

Nele Krohn, an exchange student from the school in Stadthagen, will be arriving Monday night at the Cedar Rapids Eastern Iowa Airport. She has been corresponding with her City High host over the past several weeks.

“I am really excited for the school days because I think it will be a huge difference from the way it is in Germany. I want to have fun with my exchange family,” Krohn said. “In my opinion it is a pity that the German program will be eliminated, because the German and American students will not be able to have the chance to see how foreign schools and people live and work.”

Once here, Krohn said that she thought City High students are very curious about Germany and life there.

“They talk to us a lot in classes. They are really interested with what we do, what life is like, and what school is like,” Krohn said.

According to some of the German exchange students, certain aspects of student life are a lot different in Iowa City.

“The school here is very different from school in Germany,” Gregor Brannys said. Brannys hails from Stadthagen, one of the two schools City High has been paired with.

“Here you have so much homework, but in Germany there is a lot more classwork,” Brannys said. According to Brannys, the atmosphere of the German classroom is much more rigid.

“If you don’t pay attention all the time, the teacher may talk to the parents or you may need to talk to the principal,” Brannys said, “Art classes are also very strict, because you must do exactly what the teacher tells you. It is very important,”

“The trip forms this lifelong connection with the other family,” Wilmesmeier said. “And also increases their interest in travel in the subject area.”

This long tradition between these two participating schools has produced hundreds of long lasting memories for previous exchange participants.

“I met tons of friends while in Germany that I still stay in touch with,” Brooks Henry ‘14, a former GAPP participant, said. “The students I hosted here in Iowa City left a strong positive impression on me.”