German students take on SFHS


Sadie Rawlings

German foreign exchange, Lara Herrmann, gives a presentation to the journalism class on the popularity of Schlager Music in Germany.

Students arrive at the Atlanta airport, 4,671 miles away from their homes in Leipzig, Germany. This is their first tour of America, visiting Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks before. They meet their student hosts from South Forsyth High School and take a bus to the high school. American high school is a new concept to them, new stores intrigue them and different dishes of American food amaze them. They welcome the new atmosphere and are ready to discover the American culture.

Following the brief welcome of the German students was an opportunity for them to share with classes German topics they had formed a passion for. Currently, the exchange students are taking a break from presenting due to the immense requests received from teachers for them to present in classes. Instead of giving the normal presentation they are getting baseball lessons from Coach Beyer. Topics they plan to present in classes include their daily lives in Germany, and even specific subjects, like Schlager, an increasingly popular genre of pop music in Germany, and Haribo, a delicious German gummy bear that is globally known. By sharing a bit of their life with students, they hope to find a place in the school, feel safe, and slowly become integrated in class discussions and activities, where they have a voice and are open with other students.

“For the German students to come here, our goal here is to make them feel welcome, but also to show them how a big a school works,” Ms. Legall, department chair of World Languages and the coordinator of the exchange, explains. “They live with American families, so it’s about learning what the American life is like, and for our students when they go, the South students will experience the same thing in Germany. Students won’t experience the German country as a tourist, and that’s the biggest difference.”

“while it’s about exchanging the language, it’s really about getting to know each others culture and fostering more of a global understanding of other cultures.”

— Ms. Legall

“They [the german exchange students] come with an open mind,” Ms. Legall goes on to say. “I’m always amazed at the flexibility to take someone in and to adjust to a different life on such short notice.”

South Forsyth has the honor of hosting a group of 14 students and 2 teachers from Musikalisch-Sportliches Gymnasium Leipzig, its partner school from Leipzig, Germany. Most of these students are around 10th or 11th grade, and a majority of them are interested and talented in areas of music and singing. Also, as a part of the exchange program, 14 of South’s students, who are enrolled in German classes, will each host their own exchange partners for that time. Our students include Laila De Jong, Keelyn Bergdahl, Lani Kelly, Maggie Lonsway, Taylor Fries, Josh Allen, Olivia Zeitlin, Taylor James, Mary Claire Toms, Rafferty Gifford, Wilian Botta, Elena Benatti, Robbie Paltz, and Jacob Zorko, alongside their teachers, Steffi Legall-Riddle and Jonas Strecker. These students will accompany their chosen German partners from October 4th to the 21st. During this time, the German students will also get to show presentations related to German life to sevral classes at South. Additionally, the two German exchange teachers, who accompanied their students, will also be to learning more about our country’s educational system and our school by observing our classes.

One of the students who volunteered to host a German student (Alina Rustes) is Laila De Jong who says the reasoning behind the exchange was to have German students experience the American culture while American students can experience the German culture.

to have German students experience the American culture while American students can experience the German culture.

— Laila De Jong

Alina has been by Laila’s side, shadowing her and experiencing her classes as well as experiencing the world outside of South Forsyth High School. The reason she wanted to be a host for a German student was to learn more about their culture and how German teenagers act.

“The experience was so much fun. It was the best decision ever,” said De Jong.

Alina Rusters also explaines how “she enjoys the food, especially the Chick-fil-a fries and sauce, and loves to meet the new people and experience the American culture.”

While Alina and Laila are having a blast together and becoming close friends, the German students are set to leave on Sunday, October 21. The fun experience they’ve had together show that all cultures can intermingle and learn from one another.  While Alina enjoyed staying with Laila, she’s excited to go home and see her family and friends again.

An interview with Lara Hermann, an exchange student

While presenting about German pop music to the Journalism staff, we had the chance to engage in a question/answer session with Lara Hermann.

Lara Hermann answers questions about her life in Germany and how it is different from her experiences at South Forsyth.


Q: What do you miss the most about Germany?

A: I really miss the dark bread which is available for purchase everywhere in Germany.

Q: How are teenagers in Germany similar and different to those here?

A: Teenagers in Germany and the U.S are similar because we are all just teenagers. However, we are different based on how the lessons are given. For example, in Germany, we are not allowed to use our phones in class while students at South are allowed to text in class. In the U.S, teenagers travel with their parents to places like school; whereas, in Germany, we go out on our own in transit, the railway system. German teenagers are less reliable on their parents since there are more means of public transport everywhere.

Q: What is the biggest difference in your school and the schools here?

A: Along, with not being allowed to use phones in our school, one of the biggest differences is the sizes of the schools here. The schools here are bigger and harder to get around than in Germany.

Q: Here in the U.S, we have popular singers and stores. In Germany, do you have similar singers, music or stores?

A: In Germany, we listen to American or German music on the radio. Some of the stores we have there are just like the ones in America However, we do not have many fast food restaurants like Chick-Fil-A or Chipotle.  

Q: How is the school system in Germany?

A: Students start at Elementary School which is from first to fourth grade. After elementary school, students grades are considered and those with higher grades go to High School, while the ones with lower grades go to Middle School. The High School, known as Gymnasium, is from fifth to twelfth grade, and the Middle School (translated name) is from fifth to tenth grade.

Q: What is your favorite American food you have had so far?

A: My favorite food so far is Mac and Cheese. I have never eaten it until I got here.