Loudoun Students Experience Culture, Careers in Germany

One of the great experiences that Carolyn and I both had was the opportunity to host two teachers from Germany two years ago who were part of an exchange with students from Vaihingen in the Stuttgart Region to Loudoun County. We continue to stay in touch with these two young women and consider them friends. And, we will be hosting two teachers again this Fall as part of another exchange between Vaihingen and Loudoun.

These exchanges are arranged by the George C. Marshall International Center in Leesburg. There is an additional exchange going to be held in the Fall between Loudoun and Main-Taunus-Kreis which is near Frankfurt. I am sharing the press release put out by the Marshall Center and would encourage those who have a student or students interested to consider applying and/or if you would like to serve as a host family. I can tell you from personal experience it was well worth it.


Loudoun Students Experience Culture, Careers in Germany

Seven Loudoun County high school students returned at the end of June from the George C. Marshall International Center’s second Student Partnership Exchange Program® in Vaihingen an der Enz, Germany after gaining new friendships and valuable career experiences.  

SPEP® was launched in 2006 as a part of the sister county partnership between Loudoun County and Main-Taunus-Kreis, Germany. In 2007, the Marshall Center began to run the program and has expanded it to other European venues including Vaihingen. The Vaihingen program developed based on contacts between Purcellville’s former mayor Bob Lazaro and other elected officials in Northern Virginia and the Stuttgart region. Vaihingen, like Loudoun County has many workers employed in high tech and a viticulture and agricultural economy, which offer varied options for the SPEP®’s unique internship component.

After their first weekend with their host families, the Loudoun students were warmly welcomed by the mayor of Vaihingen Gerd Maisch and the principal of the Friedrich-Abel-Gymnasium Hans-Joachim Sinnl. They expressed hope that it would be possible through the contact of the young people on both sides of the Atlantic to uphold the rules and values that we share in common.

The students got to know one another better during a canoe trip on the Enz River. They also attended classes together and toured Maulbronn, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Stuttgart; and Heidelberg.

The second week of the visit was dedicated to internships, which gave the students insight into professional life in Germany and helped confirm their career interests. It was a dream come true for Arian Patel and Jack Davis, who are interested in mechanical engineering and robotics and got to intern at Porsche, where they learned how the cars are repaired and customized. Rishi Patel, who aspires to be a doctor, got to observe different kinds of surgery, do a suture, and learn CPR at the local hospital. Two other students honed their teaching skills leading English classes at different grade levels, while one attended the world famous Film Academy in Ludwigsburg and another worked at an upscale restaurant/hotel.

“This was a fantastic experience for the kids. What a wonderful way to make the globe a little smaller,” said mother Jennifer Oliver. The students themselves cited being able to make new friends, experience a different culture, and gain more knowledge about their career interests as the most rewarding parts of the SPEP®.

The German students will have similar opportunities when they visit Loudoun County in late October.

More information on SPEP® is available at www.georgecmarshall.org. If you are interested in participating as a host family or as a student in future exchanges or in providing a career exploration, please contact the Marshall Center at spep@georgecmarshall.org before July 31. Host families are needed for the fall exchange with Main-Taunus-Kreis and students may apply to travel to Germany in the MTK program in November. Limited scholarships also are available.

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