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ConVal students return from summer German immersion trips

  • ConVal students David MacKay and Greta Topping with their international classmates in Germany. Courtesy photo—

  •  Students Zoe Werth, Greta Topping and Finn Wegmueller at the Wincent Weiss concert in Lauchheim, Germany. Courtesy photo—

  •  (Left to right) Zoe Werth, Greta Topping, Wincent Weiss (sporting a ConVal shirt), and Finn Wegmueller in before the concert in Lauchheim, Germany.  Courtesy photo—

  • Englischer Garten, Munich. Courtesy photo—Copyright 2019. All rights...

  • Jaylin Calistro in Sankt Peter Ording with students from Romania, France, Spain, Brazil, Croatia, and Montenegro. Courtesy photo—

  • ConVal students Grace Christensen and Rosie Crooker in Portland, Oregon.  Courtesy photo—

  • Processed with VSCO with au1 preset Photo by Greta Topping—Copyright 2019. All rights...

  • Processed with VSCO with au1 preset Photo by Greta Topping—Copyright 2019. All rights...

  • Photo by Greta Topping—Copyright 2019. All rights...

  • Processed with VSCO with au1 preset Photo by Greta Topping—Copyright 2019. All rights...

  • Processed with VSCO with au1 preset Photo by Greta Topping—Copyright 2019. All rights...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/12/2019 2:39:12 PM

Seven ConVal High School students explored the German language through travel and cultural immersion opportunities in Germany, as well as Portland, Oregon this summer.

The all-expenses-paid trips were offered by the German Goethe-Institut to PASCH-participating schools. The Goethe-Institut is a global German cultural non-profit. PASCH, which, in German, stands for “Schools: Partners for the Future” is an initiative of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. Both program’s missions involve promoting German language and culture to students globally.

“We are one of only 13 PASCH schools in the U.S.,” German teacher Cynthia Hodgson said.

As a result, she said, ConVal students are uniquely privileged to have annual summer opportunities for cost-free language programs.

Immersion in German

Jaylin Calistro and Greta Topping, both rising seniors, and David MacKay, a rising junior, traveled to Germany for a three-week course in July. They joined students from 14 different countries to speak and learn German, explore the country, and make new friends. All three said they were interested in the prospect of adventure while improving their German.

“I was really excited to get to make international friendships and be immersed in the German language,” Calistro said.

Topping said she was captivated by the architecture in the country.

“The traditional towns were breathtaking. Every building looked like a painting,” she said.

McKay said that he had never been to a country where English is not the first language.

“I had to take time to think about what had just been said to me, and process it. Responding was easier, but it was still very different,” he said.

Fellow attendees came from France, Indonesia, Brazil, Montenegro, Croatia, Spain, Honduras, Burkina Faso, India, Rwanda, El Salvador, Colombia and Romania.

Topping said her new international friends reacted differently to Germany’s climate. “While some were sweating with shorts, others had full winter coats!”

“At first, everyone stayed in groups with the students from their country, but after two or three days we all began to open up to each other,” McKay said. “That was when the trip became more fun, because the people were really what made the experience exciting.”

Each student’s varying abilities in English and German inspired creative new ways to communicate.

“All of them had their own way of figuring out how to connect with everyone else, whether it was through jokes, music or soccer,” McKay said.

Meeting a star

During the school year, Topping, Zoe Werth and Finn Wegmueller, all rising seniors, won an international music video contest that was sponsored by the Goethe Institute. Their winning video featured a song by popular German artist Wincent Weiss, and their prize was five days in Germany, including a Wincent Weiss concert complete with a backstage tour and meeting the pop musician himself.

“We made the video because Frau Hodgdon made it a class assignment,” said Wegmueller. “However, we wanted to take it further, knowing we had the capabilities to win a trip to Germany.”

That ultimately paid off.

“It turned out to be way more of an experience than I think any of us were expecting,” Werth said of the concert.

The students described Weiss as genuine and charming in person.

“Our meeting with him was only supposed to last 15 minutes, but we were so engaged it ended up going an hour,” said Wegmueller. “He said it was the first time people just talked to him and asked him questions rather than screaming and taking photos.”

Wegmueller said that it felt good to understand the down-to-earth life of the celebrity musician.

“We went inside his tour bus, which was tiny. Sixteen people live on that bus, and it seemed too small with five people on it,” Topping said.

All three say they appreciate Weiss’s music.

“I never get sick of any one song, mainly because it takes me a lot longer to learn all the lyrics and their meanings,” Werth said.

Topping returned to her studies after the concert, but Wegmueller and Werth spent five days touring the area with a personable chaperone.

“We spent our days walking through Munich, taking pictures, and watching people surf on rivers,” Wegmueller said.

“People were always out and doing something,” Werth added, also saying she was inspired by the nation’s apparent commitment to the environment and inclusiveness. “I’ve been inspired to be more active in my community and what I believe in, after being in Germany and seeing how proactive the youth is there about change that needs to happen.”

Additionally, Rosie Crooker and Grace Christensen traveled to Oregon, to a week-long German-immersion summer camp with students from North and South America. Four more ConVal students will attend a German-immersion course in Colorado in September.

The summer opportunities were only offered to rising seniors and juniors enrolled in level three German courses or higher. Eligible students had to fill out an application.

“We did, unfortunately, have to make some tough choices and a few kids were not chosen, but encouraged to reapply next year,” Hodgson said.

She said there are about 110 ConVal students currently enrolled in German classes, and that similar opportunities will be available in years to come.


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