Tim Gabel, Susan Sechtem and Alexandra Hauser were part of an exchange student class of nearly 30 students visiting McNary High School this month. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

A group of high school students from Stuttgart, Germany, have spent the past two weeks visiting classes at McNary High School and taking in American culture after the final bell.

“It is very different and it’s almost overwhelming because everything you see is almost super-sized: schools, the amount of people, the cars,” said Susan Sechtem, one of the students taking part in the exchange program. “I’ve never seen so many 4x4s and trucks in one place.”

This summer, a group of Celtic students will travel to Germany for their part of the exchange. Each of the German students stays with the their American counterpart during the trip.

“Every day is like a celebration concerning meals,” said Tim Gabel, who celebrated his 17th birthday during the trip. “I felt at home from the very first second.”

The students come from a college preparatory curriculum at a school that tops out at about 500 students, so visiting a school with more than 2,000 students created something of a culture shock.

“I think that people are sort of more polite,” said exchange student Alexandra Hauser. “Many of the students will just come up and talk to us. It feels like everybody knows everybody.”

Sechtem discovered that the looks can be deceiving.

“I was talking with my exchange student and she said she can go an entire day without seeing one of her friends in the halls,” Sechtem said.

Aside from sheer size, the curriculum represents a vast change from traditional German education, Gabel said.

“We don’t have the selection. The foundation of this school system is self-responsibility and in Germany you have to take certain classes. If you are self-responsible, this type of schooling is the better one. You have more selection and more choices which helps you find your way. In Germany, the focus is general knowledge and knowing everything,” he said.

“They have the same classes everyday here and, in Germany, we have different classes everyday and even finish at different times,” Hauser said.

The group planned a visit to Willamette University for a look at American higher education.

During the downtime, they’ve spent the hours traveling to the surrounding areas with host families as well as group activities like lasertag and paintball.

“The landscape has a lot of diversity, we don’t to have that type of diversity in Stuttgart,” Gabels said.

Hauser got her first taste of Taco Bell last week and enjoyed the offerings while Sechtem has enjoyed multiple trips to the Woodburn Factory Stores and planned to hit up Washington Square Mall in Portland. Gabels enjoyed learning more about baseball from his exchange student who is a member of the junior varsity baseball team.

They will depart from Keizer Saturday, April 21, and make a sight-seeing stop in San Francisco before heading home.

Other German students participating the trip were: Jonas Gartenmeier, Dian Yue Josef Zhu, Eva Ruof, Natalia Cristina Kirschke, Christian Umland, Sarah Schneider, Verena Madeleine Stütz, Hanna Marie Mündler, Sascha Lutz, Arton Shkodra, Laila Stroil, Dennis Schöpfer, Ismail Sorour, Diana Neuerer, Marcel Breuer, Jana Aronov, Marie Pflüger, Vivienne Marie Radtke, Burak Özcelik, Yeda Yildirim, Siyan Zhou, Laura Marie Pfiz, Jan Martin Wrobel, Aline Menge, Konstantin Wittwer, and Leonie Fuchs.