German Exchange Program Celebrates 40th Anniversary


Penny Joyce

Picture of Herr Welch and his class when he went on the exchange in 2001-2002.

Penny Joyce, Staff Writer

Going into this year, the German department at WA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their exchange program with the Gymnasium Corvinianum school in Northeim, Germany. The German exchange students arrived on Saturday, September 21, and are here for 3 weeks. WA will travel to their school at the beginning of the summer of 2020.

German teacher Timothy Welch has been involved with the exchange for four years as a teacher, but he also went on the exchange as a student at WA. Welch also does this program with Stony Brook middle school German teacher Colin Ashby; together, these teachers have been working on student applications for a year in order to successfully do the exchange.

“The Americans have known about this exchange for years, because when we bring the exchange students over we send them to the middle schools one day. So a lot of kids who are involved in the exchange right now remember in middle school when the Germans came down,” Welch said.

There are 20 American students and 20 German students so they’re each paired up one to one. Since its’  inception 40 years ago, the exchange program has gone through a lot of changes from its first year.

“Probably the biggest difference is how connected the world is now; social media has changed the way that this works a lot. Since it used to be that everything was done through the mail, like all the arranged partners or teachers calling Germany, but now we obviously have email so they can communicate that way,” Welch said.

Though Welch thought this modernization of certain aspects of the program could take something away from the exchange, he later realized that it’s actually very beneficial since the students are already well acquainted before they meet in person. When the exchange first started the communication between the students was very little so it would take some time for them to get to know each other. Whereas now they hit the ground running from the second they arrive at WA.

“As soon as they get paired up now they get on social media and friend them. So they’re already friends from the second they get their partner and they form a relationship,” Welch said.

When Welch went on the exchange as a student at WA his teacher, Herr Joyce, was the one who started the program 40 years ago. When Joyce retired Welch was happy to take over running the program because he loved it so much as a student.

“It is a countinum of a teacher passing it off to his student, which is kinda like the dream as a teacher, to pass it off to a student,” Welch said.

When Welch went on the exchange as a student there were 16 other WA students in the exchange, whereas now, students have to apply and interview to hopefully get picked to go on it. The tradition of the program has also allowed Welch to be able to feel at home in the town they visit in Germany.

“I think the richness and stability of the program is so strong because its been the same school for 40 years and we know each other and trust each other,” Welch said.

While the German exchange students are here there is nothing planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary, but Welch thinks they might do something to celebrate once they go to Germany. For now Welch mentions it as often as he cans hoping the program gets lots of recognition.

Some things that the exchange students will do while there here include rock climbing, traveling to New York City, canoeing, visiting Plymouth and Boston, apple picking, and many other activities. The WA students will also have the chance to visit popular cities while in Germany such as Berlin, and Welch will be taking the WA students on an extra week through Austria.

“I’m excited to expose the students to as much of the German speaking world as we can,” Welch said.