PENDLETON — Even when you have a good foundation for a foreign language, you’re going to be a bit lost when you first visit the country.
The natives speak faster and “you’re just unprepared for that when you get there,” Pendleton Heights High School senior Beau McGinnis said.
But a few days into their June trip to Germany, McGinnis, fellow senior Ryan Reske and sophomores Jacqueline Horine and Sara Spurgeon could understand and communicate with their host families.
“I feel like that you don’t realize how much you know until you get there,” Horine said. “And then, when I got back, I know everything we’re doing in class now, it’s basically a study hall now. So it taught me a lot more than I thought.”
“That’s exactly why I wanted to take the trip,” German teacher Amy Claxon said. “It’s reaffirming for them and reaffirming for me. We’re seeing a lot and learning a lot.”
It was the first time in about 10 years she’d taken a class. Claxon said she does it because “it’s really exciting for the kids to see that what they’ve been learning is real.”
Of course, there were challenges. The students have been learning High German, and their host families spoke in dialect that they had to get accustomed to.
While Spurgeon got homesick during a layover in New Jersey, Horine said she was homesick that first day.
“I was alone. I didn’t know what anyone was saying and they were laughing at me, but after that, it was all uphill and wonderful,” she said.
The teenagers learned more about the family dynamics — Horine saw how the parents and kids had a very trusting relationship that led to more freedom but also a lot of family time – and spent time in the schools.