PIQUA — Even though they do not feel like world travelers, Upper Valley Career Center students who participated in the German American Apprenticeship Partner program and recently returned home traveled upward of 10,000 miles around the world getting to and from as well as within Germany
As part of the trip, UVCC students along, with Apprenticeship Coordinator Tony Trapp and Supervisor Roger Voisard, spent time with host families, shared meals and tried local foods, went to a vocational school, visited business industries, and traveled the country to experience Germany’s history. Most of their trip was spent in Hannover, Germany, but they did visit other places like Berlin within the country.
Before the trip, Rachel Karnehm, a senior from Piqua High School studying pre-engineering at UVCC, said, “My hopes for this trip is to develop a lifelong friendship and to expand my knowledge of manufacturing and engineering from an international standpoint. I hope to see some new machinery and to learn a lot about their culture and how they do things. I am so excited for this trip and I am beyond excited to meet a new friend.”
Now that the trip has passed, Karnehm said that she was most surprised by how “similar our cultures are,” commenting on how many of the meals were similar to American meals. There were minor differences, though, including the incorporation of cold cut sandwiches to breakfast meals along with the prevalence of curry sauce and the absence of ranch dressing.
In terms of transportation, the students described some differences in how students get to school in Hannover versus what they were used to locally like in Piqua or villages like Russia. They did not ride in a car, but instead, utilized bikes and trains.
“We had a 10-minute bike ride to the train station,” Karnehm said.
From there, they took a train ride to a tram station to another train before walking 40 minutes the rest of the way to the school.
Kaeden Reier, a senior from Houston High School also studying pre-engineering at UVCC and Edison State Community College, estimated that they walked at least eight miles a day while in Germany.
In addition to using public transportation and other alternative means of transportation to get around, the students also recognized how much renewal energy Germany invested in and utilized.
Reier added that 35 percent of Germany’s energy comes from renewal energy. “Everywhere we went there were wind turbines or solar panels,” he said.
“They’re a really conservative country,” said Kyle Mills, a senior from Bradford High School attending the welding program at UVCC and working as an apprentice at Norcold Corporation. “They’re pretty self-efficient when it comes to transportation.”
Mitchell Heuing, a senior from Russia High School studying electrical trades at UVCC and an apprentice at Area Energy and Electric in Sidney, noted how that the country is environmentally friendly.
The students experienced a few language barriers with their host families mostly speaking German. Karnehm described hearing news about the U.S. while in Germany, though, and asking one of her hosts to translate news about recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. They still learned about the vehicle-ramming attack in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 31, and the mass shooting at the Texas church in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5, while they were in Germany.
“My (host) family was almost devastated,” Karnehm said.
For their classes, they were paired with a vocational school similar to UVCC in Hannover. The students described how their classes were an hour and a half long with 20-minute breaks between each class. There was no set lunch period like in high schools in the U.S., but they only had around four classes a day. They compared the school being set up like college courses, as they did not take the same classes every day.
Andrew Highman, a senior from Troy studying pre-engineering, said prior to the trip, “I want to see how different their lifestyle and education opportunities are from ours.”
While visiting Volkswagon in Germany, the students noticed how much of the manufacturing process involves machines building the parts. Highman noted, “You really don’t see people until you get to the assembly line.”
In addition to visiting Volkswagen, they also visited a travel company called Tui.
“They talked a little bit about travel,” Trapp said, remarking on how much emphasis is put on traveling.
Earlier, in regard to both travel and education, Reier commented. “It’s not uncommon for them to study outside of the country.” One of his host brothers had previously studied in France.
Traveling outside of Germany was common in general, the students learned, due to the ease and affordability to do so. Voisard compared traveling from Germany to other parts of Europe with what traveling across the U.S. would be like for Americans, as Trapp estimated Germany to be the size of Texas.
While spending two weeks in Hannover, the students also traveled around Germany.
“In Hannover, you can tell that … they started out as a kingdom with a wall around it,” Reier said.
Remnants of that wall remain, along with where the city expanded beyond that original wall. “It was kind of cool seeing where it actually started from,” Reier said.
“They had a house there that was built in 1519,” Mills said.
Mills also visited Marienburg Castle, which was built between 1858 and 1867. “I walked through a castle that was built in the 13th century,” Heuing marveled.
Students also found that history in Germany is a different kind of experience, with many existing structures being centuries older than the existence of the U.S. While traveling in Berlin, the students noticed remnants of the Berlin Wall were still in the ground, marking what had once been the barrier between East and West Berlin.
“You’re walking in history,” said Justin Meyer, a senior from Fort Loramie Senior studying pre-engineering.
Buildings affected by World War II were also there, still visibly bearing the damage and effects that the war had on the structures.
“You would literally be told the history as you were standing there,” Reier said.
The students also visited a concentration camp and a former SS training ground. Karnehm talked about how she thought it would have been disrespectful to take pictures there, but their hosts encouraged them to, as the camp is “something they will always remember.”
“Everybody was about it,” Reier said.
The gravity of the history did not hit all of them right away, but Heuing noted that he felt it when they went inside an old incinerator building. Reier added that it hit him when they visited a bunker for the prisoners of the concentration camp, where numerous prison cells were lined up next to each other.
As for what they missed about the U.S. on their trip, Highman said that the trip “made me appreciate more what I have at home.”
Levi Lavy, a senior from Russia studying welding at UVCC, said, “I missed driving a lot.”
The students remarked earlier that that they only saw one truck the entire time they were in Germany.
Voisard commented that, while they took 10 Americans to Germany, they also essentially took 10 country kids to the big city.
“I think it changed everybody’s overall point of view,” Mills said.
While some of the students are unsure if they will do more traveling like that in the future, others already have plans to go back.
“It opened me up a lot,” Reier said, calling the trip “eye-opening.” He added that the trip “really inspired” him to want to travel.
Also on the trip was Nathan Hausfeld, an IMS apprentice with UVCC, who said prior to the trip, “It’s kind of like something you always wanted to do, but never thought I would have the chance.”
Mason Schaffer, a senior from Houston studying welding program and currently an apprentice with Ferguson Construction Company, and Blake Ike, a senior from Anna studying manufacturing and machine technologies who is currently an apprentice at Minister Machine, also participated in the trip.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-451-3336