Hallo! German Foreign Exchange Students Close the Culture GAPP at South


Maggie Craig

German Exchange Students dress up for Pajama Day. During HOCO Week spirit, the German Exhange Students dressed up in matching shark onesies for Pajama Day. (Maggie Craig / The Bird Feed)

Recently, several German exchange students arrived on the footsteps of South Forsyth High School (SFHS) as part of an American adventure facilitated by the  German American Partnership Program (GAPP).

While the German students’ goals were to experience American culture, many of them also gave presentations to South students, which taught the Americans just as much about the visitors’ country and customs.

“These presentations are designed to give [SFHS] students some authentic insight into an aspect of German life and/or culture, and to give visiting [German] students an opportunity to practice their English presentation skills,” said Frau Steffi Legall, the German Teacher at SFHS. “It is also our way of connecting the entire school to this experience.”

The German American Partnership Program (GAPP) , which facilitates the exchange, states that the program aims to “[facilitate] enriching cultural exchanges” between students from the US and Germany.

Since its establishment in 1972, “GAPP has supported more than 400,000 students” to embark on exchange trips to Germany and the United States.

On Oct. 10, Lena Engst, a German exchange student, gave an eye-opening presentation in which she showcased the culture and typical lifestyle of Germans, while comparing it to her experience thus far in the US.

Engst stated she experienced some “culture shock” during her time in the U.S., particularly when she saw the approximately 2,000 students who attend SFHS compared to the roughly “450 students” at her current school, which is considered a big school back in Germany.

Moreover, Engst also enjoyed taking part in Homecoming Week festivities as the exchange students all “[wore] costumes” to participate in “school spirit.”

Considering how beneficial and successful the exchange program has been, it’s no surprise that this was South’s 2nd in-person exchange with the Musikalisches Sportliches Gymnasium in Leipizig, Germany.

Legall explained the exchange program had been on pause for “four years…due to overcrowded schools in [Forsyth County],” so it wasn’t able to start up again until 2018.

There was a planned exchange in the 2020-2021 school year, but “unfortunately we had to cancel our planned exchange… due to Covid and participated in the Virtual option GAVE (German American Virtual Exchange) with our friends in Leipzig instead,” Legall said.

Pandemics notwithstanding, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the GAPP at South Forsyth. Legall hopes to continue the program and South’s partnership with Leipzig for many years to come.

Members of the German program here at South also have the opportunity to become exchange students themselves. The students would travel to Germany for two weeks in March or April of 2023.

For those South students who choose to cross the pond, Legall said they can look forward to “experiencing life in a German family, going to school in Leipzig, participating in classes, seeing the sights in Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig and hopefully attend a German soccer or team handball match.”

The once-in-a-lifetime experience would offer students the “invaluable opportunity to step out of the everyday, develop a global perspective, and build skills that can only be learned through travel,” the GAPP program promises.