Bridging the GAPP


photo courtesy of Kara Rieger

GAPP students get together for a group photo in Germany.

Maddie Meyers, web managing editor

Cheers filled the halls of Lambert Airport as 22 KHS students caught a first glance of their German partners on Sept. 19, 2018. The American students waved their colorful signs and ran to and embraced their partners after being apart for approximately three months.

The German American Partnership Program (GAPP) allows KHS students to travel to Germany over the summer. While they are there, they live with a German host family and go to German high school, Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium, for three weeks and then explore the southern part of Germany for about five days. In the fall, the roles reverse and 22 German students come to America and attend KHS for three weeks and visit New York City. According to Larry Anderson, KHS German teacher, GAPP gives students the opportunity to learn another culture, discover similarities and differences between the schools and speak the language.

“The only real way you are going to be able to learn the language is by living in the country,” Anderson said. “But we are not just going over there to learn the language. We’re living with families and we’re creating connections.”

Eli Boshara, senior, said he applied for GAPP because he wanted to experience a new culture and make new friends. He also hoped that traveling abroad would help improve his German.

“It’s intimidating at first because a lot of what [the Germans] do is different,” Boshara said. “But everyone is nice because you’re an exchange student and they want to help you. You [also] get to learn about the different foods, customs and what they do during the day differently.”

You create friendships, and it doesn’t matter where you come from because we’re the same.”

— Helin Derin

Nicholas Hoops, Boshara’s German partner, agreed that he wanted to go to America to experience a different culture. He said it is a little confusing because you do not know anybody except your partner, but everyone is nice.

“I am looking forward to baseball games and American football,” Hoops said. “Also, the high school is quite interesting because we’ve got a whole other system in Germany.”

Eileen Finley, junior, said she shared many humorous moments with her German partner, Helin Derin. Finley’s birthday was during the German trip, so Derin’s family surprised Finley with a cake with her face on it. The two also shared many other experiences that did not always go as planned.

“When we had family weekend, we went to this small town in Germany, and on our way back home, our car broke down,” Derin said. “We spent the whole night together because we had to [fix] our car, but we had a lot fun.”

Heike Zander-Hagemann, English teacher at Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium, said the GAPP kids form friendships and bonds that last forever. She said some GAPP families even go on vacation together.

“When GAPP-ers get married, very often the partner from the other country will come as a best man,” Zander-Hagemann said. “You go off to college, maybe you have other interests, but then you want to go back to the United States or to Germany, and you reconnect.”

Boshara said social media has helped him stay connected with his partner when they were apart. Not only did Boshara make friends with the Germans, but he became closer with the American GAPP-ers.

“I [became] friends with a lot of the Americans after the trip that I didn’t think I would be, but then I [also became] friends with a couple of the Germans,” Boshara said. “We’ve stayed in touch too because of Snapchat and Instagram. It’s fun to send each other things of what’s going on to see the differences.”

Derin said that she would be really sad and scared if she had to come to America alone. Since GAPP allows Derin to stay with Finley and hang out her friends, she feels welcome and comfortable here.

“I’ve learned that everything is so different [in America],” Derin said. “It’s not better and it’s not worse; it’s just different. You create friendships, and it doesn’t matter where you come from because we’re the same. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned.”

Finley said that going to Germany improved her German a lot. She encourages students to try out for GAPP, even if it seems intimidating at first, because it is an incredible experience.

“GAPP is a lot of fun and it’s an experience like never before,” Finley said. “That’s what I kept reminding myself when I got scared, I was just like ‘I can never do this again. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.’”