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‘Family away from home’

  • Above: Austrian students present during a German 1 class at ConVal during their 16-day stay in the area. Below: ConVal principal Brian Pickering stands with two teachers from Austria who visited the area as part of an exchange program called the ConVal-Akademisches Gymnasium. photoS by Helfried Zrzavy

  • Above: Austrian students present during a German 1 class at ConVal during their 16-day stay in the area. Below: ConVal principal Brian Pickering stands with two teachers from Austria who visited the area as part of an exchange program called the ConVal-Akademisches Gymnasium. photoS by Helfried Zrzavy

  • Austrian students present during a German 1 class at ConVal during their 16-day stay in the area. Courtesy photo by Helfried Zrzavy—

  • Austrian students say goodbye to ConVal students Monday Oct. 31, 2016 after a two-week stay as part of the ConVal-Akademisches Gymnasium exchange program.   Courtesy photo by Helfried Zrzavy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, November 10, 2016

Austrian exchange students waved goodbye to what they call their “family away from home” on the last day of October.

For two weeks 21 ConVal students and their families were involved in hosting 16 juniors from Austria and their two teacher chaperones. The ConVal-Akademisches Gymnasium exchange has been running for 18 years.

Conval German teacher Cindi Hodgdon said American and Austrian students were paired up last summer and given each other’s contact information.

“We did that so they could talk to them all summer so that when the Austrians came in October they had already communicated,” Hodgdon said.

American families hosted the foreigners and helped immerse the exchange students in American culture by taking them on local excursions.

During their stay, the group traveled to the state’s seacoast, Keene State College, a planetarium, and a Revolution soccer game, to name only a few.

“When we were saying goodbye, there was one group of girls that were crying because they didn’t want to leave each other,” said ConVal senior Jill Pierson, whose family has hosted several exchange students over the years. “And they only spent two weeks together.”

Lucky for those girls, they don’t have to say goodbye forever.

As part of that same exchange, ConVal students have the opportunity to travel to Salzburg, Austria during a 10-day vacation in April.

The main objective of the trip is to be immersed in the language, Hodgdon said.

“I encourage them to speak as much German as they can, that’s why we’re there. But I also know it’s intimidating, it’s a little scary, and a lot of them do speak English so it’s easy to fall back on it. But I do put them out of there comfort zone as much as possible. I make them order their meals in German. I’ll say we have to get here today, and who wants to get us there? And that’s all I say,” Hodgdon said.

Plenty of times that means the group has boarded public transportation bound in the wrong direction, although they eventually find their way, she said.

Hodgdon said the trip is something for students to look forward to throughout the year.

“The best quote ever is when they’re like; ‘Hey, that’s just like in the text book’ and I say, ‘Yeah, I didn’t make this stuff up,’”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234.