Donna North High School is broadening its students’ cultural knowledge through the help of a Foreign Exchange program.
The German-American Partnership Program (GAPP) is an exchange program that links an American and a German high school student over an extended period of years. Its primary purpose is to help students improve their foreign-language knowledge skills and promote mutual cultural understanding.
The campus at Donna North welcomed 12 students, two teachers and one principal from its partner school in Furstenfeldbruck, Germany Oct. 16. The two-week visit allowed the students to attend classes at Donna North and be treated to tours of local and state attractions such as South Padre Island, Fredericksburg, San Antonio and Austin. The German natives stayed with host families in Donna.
Principal Belinda Vega said this was the first time this many students participated in an exchange program for this length of time. This was a great opportunity for her students and staff to learn Germany’s way of life. “What we’ve seen and heard is the students and the staff compare the two different ways of life not just in our own home, environment and our community, but in the school setting. Our students understand a little more of some of the benefits that we as Americans sometimes take for granted like qualifying for free lunch,” Vega said.
Donna North students Isabella Villanueva and Marco Piña enjoyed learning about Germany and creating new friendships. “They’re very affectionate and caring. They give you hugs,” Villanueva said.
“I’m an only child and I feel like I have a sister now,” Pina said.
The German students were impressed with the school environment. “In Germany you don’t have all those sorts of things. You have a football team, dancing, drama, theatre. You do stuff with hair. We don’t have that,” Alicia Baumann said.
“I learned some things from this because these people really like to go to school. It’s amazing. I like everything here,” Elena Strasner said.
A Donna group of 12 students will be attending Germany next July. “I just hope to experience their culture and find out the similarities and differences that we both share,” Villanueva said.
“I’m really open to trying out a lot of new things. I want to try their foods and everything. I can’t wait to go honestly to see what they do, their different cultures, their celebrations. It’s going to be exciting,” Pina said.