students have applied for the recent exchange with Lotus Valley International School.
They all are eager to explore India, to get to know the food, the people and
the culture. Furthermore, they are looking forward to hosting a foreign student
in their house.
But hosting a guest as well as traveling abroad is not a task to manage easily. That’s why both projects must be prepared accordingly and that’s also why the German students met this week to train for the exchange.
At the beginning of this first meeting, the students played a little game. They had to greet themselves with different greeting rituals from all around the world. These rituals varied from shaking hands, to touching food or to the traditional Maori hongi.Afterwards, the pupils of Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium talked about the awkwardness they felt during that game. Next the teacher in charge Wolfgang Poeschl explained to them, that this awkwardness can happen when different cultures come together. “What´s quite normal in one culture can be fairly awkward in another.” Therefore, the exchange students always must keep in mind that it is essential to learn about each other’s culture before meeting our friends from India. Only with such a cultural preparation we can avoid misunderstandings and can even show our Indian friend respect.
After that little game the participants agreed to learn some words in Hindi to welcome our new friends properly. And even if the pronunciation wasn’t perfect all the students had a lot of fun.
The one our
meeting went on and the children described their expectations towards the
exchange. They talked about their fears and about practical preparations like a
But the most important topic that was addressed by the students was the profile they have to write about themselves. Only with a good description of their hobbies, their allergies or their diet it is possible to find the matching partner. In the next week, all the German students, therefore, will fill in a “small letter of introduction”. Perhaps they will already get to know the names of their Indian partners when we meet next time.
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.
In only about one week the Indian students will be able to explore Germany. But they don’t have to do that alone. Their German partners and host parents will take care of them and will make their trip as pleasant as possible.
Aditi’s mother is completely aware of that fact and she is happy to know that her daughter will have a friend in Germany. That’s why she sent the following message to Erla, the German partner.
Aditi's mother has a special message for her daughter's partner, Erla.
Whom am I going to host? Does my partner also like rap music? Is my foreign friend willing to eat vegetarian food? These questions normally arise when the students get to know that they will take part in the exchange project. To find a fitting partner without really knowing all the students is a rather impossible task for the project coordinators. Therefore the teachers regularly request some written written application forms from the participants.
But what information should these documents include?
Allergies and aversions
The most important question is about animal allergies. You can’t match a student who is allergic to cats with a cat lover’s household even if the children would otherwise be a perfect match. That’s why we not only ask for all allergies but also for aversions for dogs, cats or other pets.
In this column students write about their preparations before the first trip to Germany starts. They write about their fears, their hopes and about their first contact with the German partner.
Today Ashni a student of Lotus Valley International school tells us about her thoughts about Germany. Speaking the German language quite well she wrote her small article in German.
Ashnis Überlegungen zur Deutschlandreise
Ich bereite mich für die Deutschlandreise vor, in dem ich Filme anschaue, Bücher lese und mehr mit meinen Partnern kommuniziere, weil bei einem Austausch handelt es um Interaktion und Lernen.
Ich habe grundsätzlich Angst vor dem Essen, weil ich Vegetarier bin, also weiß ich nicht, wie ich mit meinen Essgewohnheiten umgehen werde. Im Allgemeinen sind introvertierte Menschen schüchtern und interagieren nicht viel mit Fremden.
Aber ich bin eine sozial extrovertierte Person und kann gut mit Menschen mischen. Ich freue mich darauf, mehr Freunde aus Deutschland zu machen. Ich möchte Denkmäler und berühmte Orte sehen. Ich bin eine weggehende und abenteuerliche Person, also möchte ich so viele Orte besuchen, die ich kann.
Ich möchte alles neu mit meinem Austauschpartner ausprobieren und viel Spaß mit ihr haben. Unsere täglichen Routinen werden anders sein, aber ich werde immer noch versuchen, wie sie zu leben. Das Gleiche zwischen uns wäre unsere Natur und Persönlichkeit, weil ich regelmäßig mit meinem Austauschpartner rede und sie scheint auch eine sehr abenteuerliche und freundliche Person zu sein. Also hoffe ich, dass unsere Freundschaft auch nach dem Austauschprogramm fortfährt und ich werde auf jeden Fall wieder nach Indien zurückkehren!