By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

When a group of German high school students spent three weeks at McNary, they didn’t just observe classes, try new food and get a chance to work on their English.

They also got a taste of what it’s like to be an American teenager.

“I noticed especially for girls the parents seem to be a lot more protective in terms of dating,” said Elisa Hermann, one of the exchange students. “My host student for example wants to date a guy but her parents say that’s not okay and I don’t think that would be a normal thing in Germany. We’re a lot more independent in Germany.”

High school students from Stuttgart, Germany spent three weeks of April at McNary observing classes and taking in American culture. (KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)

The 55 students, juniors all from the same bilingual high school in Stuttgart, Germany, each stayed with host families, 31 with McNary students and 24 in West Salem.

This summer, a group of West Salem students will travel to Germany for their part of the exchange. McNary students will then go to Stuttgart the following summer.

Since the German students go to a bilingual school, they take biology, history and geography in English, a language they begin learning in the first grade with lessons really picking up in middle school.

“I think our English got a little bit better,” David Lippert said of the trip to America.

The students got to pick which classes to observe at McNary, which was refreshing.

“We don’t get electives and we don’t get our own individual schedules,” Hermann said. “It’s pretty cool to have the freedom to actually choose from all of the subjects that we don’t have.”

“Just the variety of different subjects here is crazy cool,” Lippert said. “You could go cooking and then to animal behavior.”

Philiip Class was most impressed by the weight room.

“In Germany, we don’t have a weight room at school and I really like that,” he said.

The exchange students did acknowledge visiting a German class was a little awkward.

“When we were supposed to work with the Americans some just wouldn’t talk to us because they were ashamed and I get it but it was a little bit sad,” Hermann said.

The German students also noticed a different dress code at McNary.

“Here you have some people walking around in PJs and some people are all dressed up,” Hermann said. “In Germany, there isn’t a rule that would prohibit that (PJs) but people would just judge you. We probably wouldn’t wear sweat pants to school.”

Both Hermann and Carlotta Keppler’s eyes got big when they were asked about shopping at the Woodburn outlets.

“There was this one deal in the Converse shop, (buy) one pair and (get) the second pair for half the price and we did it together,” Keppler said. “In Germany it wouldn’t be possible for two girls to get this deal because probably it would be for one person.”

“I feel like the stores would be a lot stricter in Germany,” Hermann said. “I think the general prices are pretty comparable to the German ones but they have deals that we just wouldn’t get.”

The students also said they don’t have streets like River Road with restaurant after restaurant next to each other. There also isn’t any Mexican food or leftovers.

“Here a family cooks dinner and they eat it for two or even more days,” Class said. “In Germany, we usually cook what we can eat for one meal.”

Lippert has been fine eating leftovers.

“I like my food a lot because my exchange father he cooks very good,” Lippert said.

Another big difference is schools having their own sports teams.

“It’s not like that in Germany at all,” Class said. “Sports in Germany are always separate from the school. You can participate in a sport if you join a private club.”

Lippert noticed how much more time Americans spend in cars.

“Cities in Germany are much more compact,” he said. “There’s much more space here in America.”

The German students spent the weekends exploring the rest of the state. Hermann went to Silver Falls State Park and Sisters.

“What’s interesting here is you can drive to the Cascades and get a completely different climate and that doesn’t happen in Germany,” Hermann said. “Everything is quite similar climate-wise in Germany and here it’s a big change just like that.”

Exchange programs are more common in Germany. Class, Hermann and Keppler had already been in similar programs before they came to Oregon.

Class spent a year in Minnesota. Herman was in Canada for six months and Keppler went to France for three months.

The students left Keizer on Friday, April 21 and then spent a week sightseeing in San Francisco before going back to Germany.