Programs offer international opportunities

Written by: Noa Livneh

The Student Exchange programs offer international students the opportunity to enjoy Gunn’s campus and education system. At the same time, Gunn students have the opportunity to live with a host family in another country for two to three weeks and immerse themselves in the language and culture.

The German Exchange program, run by German American Partnership Program (GAPP) coordinator Kerstin Helbing, allows students from Germany to study at Gunn for a limited time. Students stay with a host family and attend school like any other Gunn student would.

In April 2013, students from Germany will visit Gunn and in June, Gunn students will visit Germany. “Living in another country will give students some real encounters,” Helbing said. “They get to learn about culture and language.”

A German program offered off-campus allows German students to live in Palo Alto for a longer period of time in order to give them the opportunity to experience another culture. Students get the opportunity to compare Gunn’s aspects to those of their own school back home. “I get to choose my classes,” German junior Simon Pfeiffer said. “And the school is much larger than the one in Germany.”

Students who are interested in French culture have the option to participate in a program that offers students the opportunity to live in France for about two weeks. French teacher Anne Jensen, who is in charge of the program, believes it gives students a new perspective. “There are so many different ways to view the world.  It depends from where you are,” she said. “The more international perspective you have the better prepared you are to live in an internationally connected world.”

Many Spanish students participate in a Spanish program called Amigos. The program offers community service in underprivileged Latin countries. The trip takes six weeks and requires more commitment than the shorter programs of the other languages. Students become fluent in the language and learn a lot. “It was the most rewarding experience anyone could go through,” senior Cassie Kent, who went to the Dominican Republic this past summer, said.

A program called Youth for Understanding (YFU) is a longer program that can take a summer, a semester or an entire year. It offers forty different countries around the world to choose from. “The hard part about participating in an exchange program for an entire school year is that students need to make sure they meet their course requirements in the U.S. for graduation,” Jensen said. “Sometimes this involves taking summer school before or after participating in the exchange.”

Through these programs, students have a chance to learn new language and experience culture.   “It gives you an advantage,” Jensen said. “You can see the world through someone else’s eyes and sometimes that’s what you need to get a better understanding.”