German exchange students and Belleville high school students shared an international language at a going-away party -- pizza.
The party at Papa Vito's in Belleville on Sunday marked the end of the German exchange students' three-month visit to the area.
They are part of an exchange program between Belleville Sister Cities Inc. and its counterpart in Paderborn, Germany.
The German students are excellent in English. Most start studying in the third grade in their schools and some continue to study all the way through high school.
They also picked up American consumerism in a hurry.
"We went to the mall. All the malls. A lot. Everything here is cheaper and there are so many different stores," said Greta Koch, who stayed with Liz Hughes and her family.
Four of the five students are 16 while Robin Drabon, who stayed with Aidan Cole and his family, is 15.
With all the international connections anymore, the students didn't have that hard of a time getting acclimated. But there were some surprises.
"I was surprised that Americans drive everywhere. They drive through for food and everything," Greta said.
"And pharmacies," Robin added. "I was shocked that all the people talk on their phones while they are driving. That isn't done at home."
The proliferation of ATMs also surprised the students.
Maximilian Schlenger, who stayed with Nick Arteaga and his family, said it surprised him that every building is air conditioned.
"Everything is bigger here," he said.
Patricia Dickgreber stayed with Joanna Stauder and her family and Melina Schutte stayed with Alex Mallette and her family.
The students attended classes and did some of the other things students do like go to football games.
"We don't understand them, but we go," Robin said.
There were dances, shopping, movies, fast food and out-of-state trips with host families.
In Germany, the students can get a provisional license at age 17, but have to have someone else in the car who is over age 30. They get a solo license when they reach 18.
This group of kids will finish the school year at home and then have two more years of before taking exams. Most go to college after that.
The organization is looking for families to host the school exchange students next year. Families get a stipend to help with costs.
Coordinator Doris Roach said the families don't necessarily have to have a student in high school because the exchange students meet plenty of other kids when they attend school.
"It's a great experience," she said. "Once a family does it, they love it."
For more information, you can call Roach at 234-3633 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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