Glenbrook South says goodbye to foreign exchange students from Germany, Spain

Wagner Farm was an appropriate setting for the German exchange students' farewell to their hosts from Glenbrook South High School, as it was established by German settlers.

Two weeks of cultural sharing with 16 students and two teachers from Klettgau-Gymnasium Tiengen culminated on Oct. 28 with a potluck dinner at the Glenview Park District dairy farm.

Next June, Glenbrook South sophomores and juniors will make their journey, visiting a place "deep in the Black Forest," said German teacher Laurie Haugh.

"It's like from the fairy tales. Skinny, cobblestone streets, everything is very green," she said.

"It looks very different from the everyday reality here in the suburbs of Chicago. The pace of life is slower, so it gives them insights that are really different from what they're used to," she said.

As a 16-year-old at Elgin High School, Haugh took an exchange trip to Germany and said it influenced her decision to teach that language and start a program where she taught.

At Glenbrook South since 2010, Haugh just finished hosting her ninth group of exchange students. German teacher Renate Toth is a chaperone.

The goal of student exchange programs, Haugh said, is to know what it's like to be a teenager in another part of the world. Part of it is bonding with the natives.

"In two weeks you become part of the family," she said.

It seemed the German visitors liked the faster pace of the city and suburbs.

The trip to Chicago is always big, Haugh said - visiting Willis Tower, cycling on the lakefront, taking the Chicago River Architectural Boat Tour, hitting the batting cages at Slugger's.

And in Glenview, too - a backyard bonfire, dressing in pink for this year's homecoming football game.

Homecoming, particularly the dance, also thrilled the Spanish contingent who previously had their own exchange with Glenbrook South Spanish students. From two public high schools in Orihuela in southeast Spain, Glenview families hosted 26 students and four teachers from Oct. 8-17.

The Spanish exchange program was founded at Glenbrook South in 2003 by teachers Mark Bauman, David Franson and Matt Johlie. This was the 10th time the Titans have held this biennial program with Orihuela, but the first since 2019 due to the pandemic.

The Spanish students and teachers will then host their American counterparts next year for two weeks from late March until early April. The program is open to all Glenbrook South juniors and seniors taking Spanish.

The Spanish students also got a kick out of a Chicago trip, but Bauman thought they had the most fun just being with their Glenview friends. He said he's had students who remain in touch with their partners since the program began.

"I think the real highlight is being in school and enjoying homecoming," Bauman said.

Since it's a language arts program, the exchange should also be about language.

"Their Spanish skills are improved because for the first time they're using their Spanish skills outside of the classroom," Bauman said.

When it came time for the Orihuela students to leave, Bauman said there were "a lot of tears and a lot of hugs as the bus pulled away. And the excitement of knowing that the other half awaits us."

Glenbrook South's German students have that coming as well. The activities, language and friendships.

"As teachers we plan programs during the day with activities like hiking the Alps or going to Strasbourg, France, for a day, or going to Europa-Park, like their Great America," Haugh said.

"But when I ask the students in the airport on the way home, they tell me the memory they'll take with them is laying in the grass along the Rhine looking up at the stars with their exchange friends."

Glenbrook South Spanish teacher Mark Bauman said a highlight of the cultural exchange program is simply "being in school." Courtesy of Mark Bauman
Glenbrook South students and their cultural exchange partners from Germany engage in a game of soccer at John Davis Stadium. Courtesy of Laurie Haugh
Glenbrook South students and their German exchange partners get into the "pink out" spirit before the Titans' final regular-season football game Oct. 21. Courtesy of Laurie Haugh
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