The German-American Partnership Program (GAPP) is a student exchange program between Germany and the United States. IHS has taken part in this program every other year since 1988, allowing twenty-five rising juniors and seniors to partner with students from the Otto-Hahn Gymnasium (OHG), a selective school for grades 5 through 12 in Tuttlingen, a small town in southern Germany. Last October, IHS students welcomed their German partners into their families to introduce them to American culture. To complete the second half of the exchange, IHS students traveled to Germany from July 4 to 27, chaperoned by German teachers Mrs. Wintermute and Mr. Isley and English teacher Mrs. Cernera.
After a warm welcome and a pleasant reunion with their partners, the German endeavor began as everyone drove away to the homes of their host families. The first twenty days were spent in Tuttlingen; IHS students were expected to follow their exchange partners around school, extracurricular activities, and leisure. At home, they acted as part of the family, doing chores and going to family events. There were occasional trips to various cities and attractions, which included organized group-wide trips as well as excursions planned by individual families. In the final three days, the American exchange students spent time in Munich with their partners before flying back to Ithaca.
Two local companies, Aesculap and the Hirsch Brewery, offered tours of their facilities to show valued industries in Germany. Aesculap, a company based in Tuttlingen, showcased their processes in manufacturing surgical instruments and other medical tools, emphasizing the consistency and perfection expected from “German-quality” products. The Hirsch Brewery, founded in 1782, taught the history and the cultural importance of beer in Germany. The tour showed the meticulous process of storing, packaging, and fermenting beer.
There were also trips to Stuttgart, Konstanz, Freiburg, and Munich, in which the students could learn about daily life in larger cities through direct experience. They could learn to talk to passersby, navigate through the bustling streets to shop, and find the best places to relax and eat great German food.
It rained continually in Munich during the final three days, reflecting the somber emotions of the group as they bid farewell to their host partners, families, and friends. Most of the time was spent lightheartedly; IHS students enjoyed their final Döner Kebap or last scoop of ice cream in their final days in Germany. However, in contrast, their visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp taught them the darker but very important aspects of German history, and it represented the potential of rebirth and improvement after scarring events such as the Holocaust.
In every city there was an entirely different story, and in every experience there was always something new to learn. This trip did not only serve as a tool to learn the rich history, beautiful language, and dynamic culture of Germany; it also allowed students across cultures to build connections and share great experiences.