Mittelschule Bad Schlema English teacher Pia Pikula, left, shows Mayor Del Jurney how to use a Räuchermann (incense burner) as Bad Schlema student Laura Müller, center, looks on. (Ilissa Gilmore Photo)
Mayor Del Jurney said Willkommen! Thursday at the 5th District Courthouse to students from Germany participating in a student and teacher exchange program.
Since 1995, Goddard High School German teacher Sharon Bell has participated in the program with a school in Bad Schlema, Germany.
More than 20 students, aged 14 to 17, of Mittelschule Bad Schlema came to Roswell this year, along with English teacher Pia Pikula and principal Angela Schubert. Pikula also serves as a coordinator for the exchange and has visited Roswell three times.
During the two-week visit, students enjoy various activities, such as a day trip to White Sands and a visit to the UFO museum — but “it’s not a holiday,” Pikula said. The program is a true school exchange and students actually take part in classes and have assignments.
Students also help with German lessons, Pikula said, and “on the other hand, we can improve our English.”
The mayor presented students with honorary citizenship and pins of the city seal. Students also had the chance to meet individually with the mayor and take photos.
“It’s a pleasure to meet them and get to know them and share with them what we’re about,” Jurney said. “Sharon Bell does a terrific job.”
Among the students Jurney met, two are the children of mayors: Laura Müller, daughter of Bad Schlema‘s mayor and Tim Kunzman, son of the mayor in Lauter, another town.
On behalf of his school, Bad Schlema student Georg Bornemann presented Jurney with a Räuchermann, a handcrafted incense burner resembling Santa Claus. As the incense burns inside the figure, the smoke comes out of the pipe it holds.
This is the second time Bornemann, 17, has participated in the exchange. What he enjoys is learning about American culture, which he said includes “big streets and big cars.”
“The whole lifestyle is different,” he said. “So, it’s nice to take part and get new friends from here.”
Likewise, host parent Mikell McGuire finds the experience interesting and exciting.
“It’s very rewarding, especially getting to learn about their culture and about their families,” she said.
At the courthouse, students also learned a little about the U.S. court system by participating in a fun mock trial, presided over by Sharon’s husband Judge Steve Bell. Another new experience for students will be attending Goddard High’s prom Saturday, since there are no such events in Germany.
“The rewarding part of this program is to watch these students, whether German or American, develop a self-confidence to travel anywhere, to meet any person of any culture,” Sharon said.
Next year, Goddard students will travel to Bad Schlema. Students Kevin Vareia and Alexandra Eiffert, both 17, described Germany as a “very different world.”
“People should open their minds,” Vareia said. “Traveling feeds the soul and it’s something everyone should experience.”