In barely two weeks we are going to fly to our partner school in India. This means it is high time to inform the parents of the latest news from Lotus Valley, to hand out the schedule prepared diligently, and to answer the most pressing questions of all participants. Therefore, the German parents, some of the exchange students and me, being the participating teacher will gather at the Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium this Monday evening.
The most urgent question to answer will certainly be whether we will get our visa in time. Luckily, I got an email this week from the consulate of India in Munich guarantying us the help of the consulate. Thus, I feel more than positive that the visa problems of the last weeks are off the table and that there won’t be any more surprises.
As we also already got our tickets from our travel agent we are theoretically ready to travel, and the meeting is obsolete, isn’t it? That’s a hopeful but somehow naïve wish. The experience of several years of exchange have taught us that there are far more topics to clarify, not only to settle the parents’ worries but also to avoid further misunderstandings.
So, here is my checklist for all the teachers who must conduct such a meeting. I tried to make a list of all the topics that usually arise during the meeting and that I put in my presentation in advance. Please drop a comment if I forgot an issue.
Like every year a brave adventurer went to Munich this September to apply for the visa to India. Having a five year long experience I was quite sure that we didn’t make any of these mistakes we did the last years:
For instance, this year all the students signed their application forms several times, all the pictures were at the right size and were glued to the right position and even the telephone numbers were written down only in that way the visa office asked for. To be on the safe side I checked all the papers and double checked the requirements on the consulate’s homepage every day to be ready for any changes. Full of confidence I headed towards Munich.
And once again the Indian bureaucracy proofed me wrong. When I handed over the well elven prepared application forms to the case officer I was quite shocked when I saw him rolling his eyeballs and shaking his head furiously. “Sorry, I can’t accept these! You have to come back again with new forms!” he told me with a smile. “You and your students chose the wrong visa type by checking the wrong checkbox on page two.” I was shocked. Apparently, the office decided only one week ago that you must apply for a student visa instead of an entry visa like in the years before. However, they didn’t mention that change on their homepage (it is still wrong there). Because of that they are happily denying all school exchange applications and are sending the passports back to the schools for another try.
Luckily the change from one visa type to another would be an easy task. The requirements and the questions to answer are all the same you only must check another box, and that’s it. Unfortunately re-checking any boxes is 7.50 € each and a surprising extra fee of over 80 € was added to our travel costs. Furthermore, the office recently got rid of the pick-up-service as well. Now you can’t collect your visa from the office any more but they will send them to your home address for only 23 € per passport. That’s why, in addition to the regular fee of 7.40 € our “gratis visa” for school exchanges costs now nearly 40 € for each participant.
Luckily, we finally got a small discount because I went there in person and was able to explain our disappointment with the new procedure. I just feel sorry for all the schools which sent their passports via mail and will be shocked when they receive their unworked application forms soon.
What to do next year? Apparently it doesn’t help to read the homepage or to bank on your experience. The only chance is to call the office the very day you apply for the visa. But with our luck they will have changed the telephone numbers one week in advance without telling anybody.
I was really happy when I saw my room, it’s so green, so I feel fresh. It’s in the basement so it’s very cold. It’s small and comfortable. I feel really comfortable and good. The family has also arranged cupboards for me, so I have arranged all my clothes in it. Every day Hannah’s mother arranges chocolates near my bed because she knows I love them.
Introducing my German host family
The Bullings are a really welcoming and nice host.
The very first day they arranged Indian food for me which they made at home. It felt like home. Mother is really nice and sweet to me, and takes care of me like my own mom. Father is a really good cook. Hannah’s brother is really sweet and helpful. The family enjoys playing evening games which is really rare in India. They try to make me comfortable. I am really happy to be a part of the family now and I’m lucky to have a sweet and kind partner like Hannah. She is really nice and we’re similar in many ways. Hannah always has a smiling face and tries to help me out. I’m looking forward to see her soon in India and try to take care of her in the best way possible.
for breakfast I drink orange juice and eat a toast. Sometimes mother makes hot chocolate for me. It’s delicious. I also eat fruits, donuts and pretzels. I really like the Bavarian pretzels, they are so delicious!!
I still remember the day Aditi asked me for her allowing her to go to a German exchange with pleading eyes.
It was her dream from the day she took German as her third language. She knew it’s her 10th and mid term after the vacations will be really hard, and I could say a “no” but with a big heart I allowed her because I knew, no marks or academic achievement can ever give her this opportunity of going on a cultural programme, living with a totally different family and being a part of their daily routine.
Straubing: Ten Indian students and their German partners were taken into custody during their annually student exchange.
At the late afternoon, the teenagers who stayed during the day at the Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium, were on field trips with their host families, or went shopping at the city centre gathered in front of the police building at Theresienplatz, Straubing.
The alert police officers, one of them being a “host dad” himself, couldn’t act otherwise and had to take the interested looking students into custody. The officers also showed them the building of the police station and tried to explain the work of the Bavarian police.
During the extensive questioning of the teenagers it was also necessary to involve part of the K9 unit. Due to the high rate of interest, the unprecedented behaviour and the huge amount of fun the 20 students were sentenced to jail and were locked into one of the prison cells for a short moment. They all were released into freedom after everybody has taken their selfies.
Finally the German host parents picked up all the exchange students and took them “home”.
We want to thank Mr Buchs who made this field trip to the police station possible. Thank you for providing that unique insight in the work of the German police.
The opportunity to experience another culture firsthand, by living with a native family is a chance of a lifetime.
Good things and positive experiences don’t always come easy. I thanks my school Lotus Valley and their team for giving this chance to my son and will treasure forever.
This exchange program has impacted on his future in many ways like lifelong friendship, career goals, and personal goals.
(Mother of Lakshya Bhatia , class 10th vivevekanand )