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On June 16, Norfolk Academy will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its exchange program with Copernicus-Gymnasium. 

Norfolk Academy students are blogging about their experiences in Germany in the lead up to this celebration. 

Wednesday, June 7

Today, we had our first day of school at Copernicus-Gymnasium. We accompanied our exchange partners to each of their classes, and got to the know the school’s environment and its people. At the chapel of the day, after the first class, the American exchange students shared their names, who they were staying with, and how old they were to the student body of CGL. At the end of the day, since a large number of us happened to be in the same class, in said class the lesson plan was changed from mathematics to a cultural exchange between the American and German students of the class. The American students and their hosts gathered in one group, and the remaining students gathered in another. The former presented facts about Norfolk Academy, giving a Kahoot! quiz shortly after, and the latter made a video showcasing the Gymnasium’s specialties and then gave a quiz as well. After the school day was over, most of us met at the Löningen Wellenfreibad (a Löningen social hub) for swimming and frisbee and then went to Matze’s Diner for a quick bite. Some of the us walked from the swimming area to the diner and got to see the town’s attractions, including a herd of sheep on a nearby river! Overall, we had a great first day in Löningen. - Jacob '24


Thursday, June 8

The group started off with our second day at Copernicus-Gymnasium, where we constantly challenged our understanding of German by trying to understand the lesson being taught in our different classrooms. With our free time, we went einkaufen — which means shopping, with our German friends. After school we had a little down time to talk with our exchange families and relax before heading off to a cookout with the rest of the exchange group, as well as our CGL exchange partners. Right off the bat we all set off to play Bosseln, a game similar to bowling, except there are no pins. The goal of the game is to get the ball to go as far as possible along a specific route with the least number of throws. We divided into two opposing teams and played Bosseln through the streets of Löningen. We then dove into our delicious homemade dinner of bratwurst, chicken, potato salad, pasta and salad, and finished the night with a mix of fruit salad and ice cream for dessert, as well as a dip in the pool. Wish us luck when we set off on our trip to Berlin! - Susie '24


Saturday, June 10

After our first night in Berlin, we started our new day with a nice breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we made our trek to the Brandenburg Gate. There we met our tour guide for Berlin, who taught us lots of interesting facts as we walked three hours throughout Berlin. We walked and learned about the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. After walking through the memorial, we reflected on how it made us feel and what we thought about it, because there is no clear definition of what the memorial symbolizes. We then stood in a seemingly average parking lot, only to learn that we were standing directly over where Hitler's underground bunker once was. Then we moved on to visit Checkpoint Charlie. Our last stop was the Bebelplatz, a large city square where much of Berlin's history has been shaped, through ups and downs. At the conclusion of the tour, our group split up into smaller groups and went off exploring Berlin. Some of us explored the Mall of Berlin and had lunch. Everyone made it to our last event of the day, a ride through the River Spree. - Coke '24


Sunday, June 11

We began the long trip back to Löningen from Berlin at 8:30 after breakfast at our hotel. We got back on our bus and drove about an hour to the Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, constructed in 1747. We first explored the beautiful terrace overlooking a garden with a huge fountain at the center with the palace behind us. As Mrs. Acra observed, “this would be a great place for a wedding.” We then went inside the palace with a self-guided audio tour. We went through each room and learned about its individual design. I think the room we all enjoyed the most was the nature room. It was adorned with designs which resembled plants and animals including birds and monkeys, and we all admired the artistry and creativity of the architect. After going through each room, we then wandered around the grounds and took in all the sights. A few of us also went to the gift shop and bought tote bags and ice cream, the full 18th century experience. After this excursion we then got back on the bus and drove back to Löningen to rejoin our families. We had a lot of fun in Berlin and learned a lot, but now we will continue with our immersion into German culture and attempt to further improve our speaking abilities. - Sophie '24


Monday, June 12

We began our day by meeting at the bus stop outside of the school at 9:15 a.m. As we were getting on the bus, the group was given the challenge of putting our phones and earbuds away and sitting next to and conversing with a new German student. We started our journey to Museumdorf Cloppenburg, where we were given a tour around the grounds. The exchange group learned about the lives of each of the different social classes in the village. We explored the different buildings, which consisted of craftsmen buildings, carpentry buildings, larger farms known as the Quatmannshof and the Wehlburg, and medium-sized farms known as the Haake farm and the Hoffmannshof. The students learned that most of the houses consisted of one big room and the cows and other animals stayed inside the house. The students also learned that when people were not liked within the house, they would receive the last serving of stew from the pot that had been sitting all week. The exchange groups were then given a scavenger hunt type of quiz where we were split into groups of three or four and had to walk around the grounds answering questions. The final destination of the scavenger hunt led us to the bakery, where we each tried different types of bread, leaving the Buttercake as the group favorite. The experience allowed us to learn about the cultural history of the northwest of Germany. To cool off from the hot day, many exchange students and their hosts met at the local swimming pool and then headed back to the school for volleyball. As the chorus group arrives today, we all look forward to the celebration of the 50th anniversary on Friday! - Hannah '24


Tuesday, June 13

Today we met the Bürgermeister (mayor) of Löningen, Burkhard Sibbel. He gave us a presentation with facts and pictures of Löningen. Then we asked him questions and he answered thoughtfully. After taking a picture with him we returned to school. We joined our students and helped them with their end of the year projects. Some of us hung out in the courtyard, went to the grocery store, and watched the musicians practice. Finally, we met at the Kletterwald (adventure park). We put our harness on and watched a safety video. We split off and went on different courses. The courses were both fun and challenging. To end the day, some of us went to support my exchange student, Vera, at her Fußball game and later had dinner at Lisa’s house. - Michelle '24

Wednesday, June 14

We woke up early in the morning to depart for Bremen, where we visited the German Emigration Center, a museum dedicated to the history of German emigration. At the museum, we were each assigned the life of a German emigrant to follow and learn about while going through the museum. While at the museum we also saw the Gallery of 7 million, a room filled with records of German emigrants. Many of us also used at the end of the exhibits to find family members. After the museum, we drove further into town to explore the city in groups. Our group hit the jackpot at our lunch spot with great authentic German food. Afterwards, we were given a tour of the city, where we learned the history of the city’s architecture and how 62% of the city was destroyed in World War II. We also learned the about the four animal musicians, a story written by the Grimm brothers that takes place in Bremen. After the tour, we drove back to Löningen. While some of us went home, others went to play volleyball. Overall, we had a fun and entertaining day that left us all excited for the upcoming days in Germany. - Owen '24


Thursday, June 15

Today, we went to school and I had Sport first. The students played volleyball and soccer in the gym. My other classmates attended a history class. Then, I was supposed to have English class but it was cancelled so some of my classmates, who had free bells, and I went to get ice cream with our German hosts. When we arrived back at CGL, we went with our hosts to a podium discussion where we learned about the crises here in Europe and how they affected the industries and companies of other countries. Tonight, most of us will attend the premiere for the musical performance. - Reagan '24


Friday, June 16

We all looked sharp as we attended the formal celebration commemorating 50 years of the German-American exchange with Copernicus-Gymnasium. Both heads of school spoke and the Mayor (Burgermeister) presented Herr Gurken and Mr. Manning original newspaper articles from the first exchange in 1973. Then former German president Christian Wolfe spoke before the musical performance. After this, we had the opportunity to attend a reception where we met NA alum Grover Outland '74, who was a member of the group to take part in the first exchange. Afterwards we went home with our hosts to take part in various activities. I was able to ride a horse for the first time in a long time. It was so fun!  Overall, a fulfilling and fun day! - Emilie '24


Saturday, June 17

Today was a rest day. We all woke up late because we were tired from an end-of-year party last night. After eating a late breakfast and chilling with our host families for a couple hours we decided to bike to Leo’s (Dylan’s host) house for a barbecue. Before that we went to our local supermarket to grab  snacks and drinks. After eating dinner and listening to German top hits we played frisbee, spike ball, and table tennis. After sundown we biked to Lodbergen to watch the second night of Schützenfest. There was a big concert and food trucks and we had a great time with all of our friends! - Julian '24


Sunday, June 18

Having the weekend to do as we pleased, the majority of us seized the opportunity to sleep in one more time before we return to school tomorrow. However, in the afternoon, a few of us went with our families on day trips, visited amusement parks, and even a waterpark where Richard Hope showed off his water-skiing skills. Wherever we went we were sure to practice our German language skills. We also enjoyed the German food Currywurst and then returned with our exchange partners to end the day to get ready for Monday school. - Dylan '24 


Monday, June 19

The fun weekend has come to an end, and we joined our host students back in the classroom. Coming to school also allowed us to catch up with our other friends we didn’t see over the weekend and reflect on the fun activities they participated in. We attended our first class before meeting in the courtyard to discuss our quickly approaching departure. We went back to classes before meeting after school to have a cookout with our host students along with the chorus group, teachers, and their hosts. We ate, took pictures using Coach Doane’s polaroid camera, and said our goodbyes to the chorus group because they are leaving tomorrow morning. We all parted ways for the afternoon, but some of us met up later to play beach volleyball and to hang out and be with each other in these final days of our exchange. - Carrie '24


Tuesday, June 20

Today, the exchange group started in typical fashion, at school. However, after a few classes the American exchanges went to Colosseo for ice cream and a final rendezvous with Mr. and Mrs. Acra. There, we planned our final excursion and the plans for the next day. Fast forward a few hours, and the exchange group met at a bowling alley, for a final activity together. Everyone had a good time as we shared some of our last moments together, at least for now. Finally, the group went to a diner for a last meal together. Even with end of this adventure slowly approaching, no one was downcast as we enjoyed the moments we still had together eating and laughing. Overall, it was a fun but bittersweet last day in Löningen. The students will never forget the times they spent here. - Jacob '24


Wednesday, June 21

The Bulldogs started the day with a VERY early wake up, arriving at Copernicus-Gymnasium at about 3:30 in the morning. After a bit of a wait, the bus came, and it was time to say goodbye to our exchange partners for good. Many tears were shed, and we started our long drive to Frankfurt with one last wave through the window. Most of us used the five-hour journey to get needed shut-eye, as we still had a long day ahead of us. Once we arrived at the airport we said goodbye to our beloved bus driver. As expected, the plane ride was long, about seven hours. But before we knew it, we were back in America! After another 30-minute, mostly uneventful flight, we were finally home. Dylan had set up a stopwatch and concluded that we had been traveling for 21 hours 1 minute, and 38 seconds. Many of our parents were waiting at the gate, some met up at baggage claim, and we all shared our last hugs and goodbyes as we headed off for home to get a good night sleep. - Susie '24


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