By Luisa Fritsch
Fifteen students from Main-Taunus-Kreis, Germany, spent the first half of this month with host families in Loudoun, getting a glimpse of the day-to-day life of local teenagers and spending a few days on the job to experience various careers.
The students’ hometown sits just outside of Frankfurt and is Loudoun County’s sister city.
Since 2007, high school students from both Main-Taunus-Kreis and Loudoun County have taken turns visiting their each other’s home countries as part of the George C. Marshall International Center’s Student Partnership Exchange Program.
The German students arrived in Loudoun Sept. 30 and stayed through Oct. 14. The first half of the week they toured Washington, DC, including the Capitol and the memorials and monuments on the National Mall. They also met with County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and spent a day at the high schools of their host students.
The second week of the visit is what makes SPEP different from most student exchange programs. Students spent three days interning at Loudoun businesses. Each student is paired with a company or organization that aligns with the career path they’re most interested in.
Paula Albrecht, 16, did her internship at the StageCoach Theatre Company in Ashburn. She had a chance to see how the company plans and rehearses ahead of a performance. “I was particularly struck with how much passion the actors have and how hard it is to make enough money to maintain such a business,” she said. “It is interesting how professional everyone performs, even if there are problems and the technology is not working.”
Simon Dylla, who has traveled as a chaperone to Loudoun with the German students for several years, said he’s seen the exchange greatly benefit hundreds of students.
“I am proud that the Student Partnership Exchange Program is a really attractive offer, whereby students in the USA and Germany are able to learn about the different culture, the history and the family lifestyle, in only two weeks,” he said. “We thank especially the companies which make a big insight into the working world possible for the students and conduct to the success of the exchange program.”
The timing is especially good, he added. SPEP provides an opportunity to improve “international understanding against the background of international tensions.”
Loudoun’s students get their turn to visit Germany Nov. 17 through Dec. 2. They will take part in four-day internships and visit Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Point Alpha, used as an observation post between east and west Germany during the Cold War.
Since the George C. Marshall International Center launched its exchange program with Main-Taunus-Kreis, Germany, it’s since expanded it to include programs in Vaihingen, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and Metz and Saint-Cyr-Loire in France. Learn more at georgecmarshall.org/International-Exchanges.
Luisa Fritsch is a 15-year-old student from Main-Taunus-Kreis, Germany, who spent part of her visit in Loudoun County interning at Loudoun Now.