Recently, as part of the Global Studies program, my family and I had the privilege of hosting one of the teachers from the Erasmus-Grasser-Gymnasium, the Academy’s exchange school in Munich, Germany. While this year’s exchange marked the 34th year of the program, being a host family was new to us.
It became very clear early in the visit that Michael, a teacher of English and Physical Education, and I had many similarities (we both enjoy running and think little of eating corn chips by the dozens) and we had a great deal to learn from each other. Our conversations during our rides to and from school, around the dinner table, while camping in the rain, and even while watching my sons' soccer games covered a vast array of topics.
While reading the newspaper and looking over the ads one day Michael asked, “Who drives Buicks?” Michael told us that Volkswagens, Mercedes, BMWs and other cars were the most common in Germany and Buicks are just not a car he sees in Munich. While I answered the question (in full disclosure, my father-in-law drives a Buick) I realized the huge amount of cultural information we take in without giving it a whole lot of thought.
Through cultural exchanges that the Global Studies program is able to offer our community we can get a stronger understanding of our culture while learning about others experiences’. We had other rewarding conversations about politics, gun control, food portions, and how our education systems differ. As our world becomes more and more globalized and information is streaming on small screens in our palms it will be very important to remember some of the great conversation we had - conversations with which no screen or YouTube clip could compete! Hosting or sending students to a host family certainly has benefits for the visitors as well as for the hosts, who learn firsthand about another culture and about our own culture.