The original version of this article was posted in German in the Celle Kurier on March 18, 2020. The translation of the article was provided by Serena Grünhagen.
CELLE. As part of the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), the 16-year old American exchange student Mia Ola was a guest in Celle. Because of the recent developments, she had to travel back to the USA.
The young American came with the student exchange organization “AFS Intercultural Encounters” (www.afsusa.org) to Germany in August 2019. Ola lived in Celle with her host family and actually attended school at the Ernestinum High School (www.ernestinum-celle.de) for a year. The local member of the German Bundestag, Henning Otte (CDU – www.henning-otte.de), had previously taken a sponsorship for her, as Jörg Grünhagen, from Mr. Otte’s office, explains.
Ola, who comes from a small town near Pittsburgh, settled very well in Celle in the last several months. “I like Celle a lot. People here are very nice to me.” Her host mother is Monika Rietze. Ola wants to say thank you to her hsot family, because they have done a lot for her. Her host sister, the 19-year old Johanna, is doing her final secondary-school examinations at the Ernestinum High School this year.
Ola came together with other 49 exchange students to Celle after spending a month at a school in Hamburg and visited Celle for a one-day trip. Back then, she didn’t use to have a host family for her exchange year. Her host sister suggested to accommodate her to stay over. Because Celle is a beautiful town, Ola decided to stay here.
End of last year, Ola was invited by her mentor Otte to visit Berlin. Besides taking part in a Bundestag session, the highlights of the CBYX-exchange student’s visit in Berlin were the visit of the “Futurium-House of the Future” and of the Federal Ministry of Defense (www.bmvg.de/en).
Recently Ola has done an internship in the kindergarten “Schlösschen.” “My German has improved a lot because of my work with the small kids,” she says excitedly. In the USA there are no such school practical trainings, she reports.
Ola was also mentored by Heike Rochell from Celle, who had been an exchange student herself in 1982 and is now a mentor as well as a coordinator of the AFS for the Celle Region.
It is very important for the Bundestag that the exchange students are well taken care of locally and a contact person is always there for them. Rochell, who was one of the founders of the Committee in Celle in 1983, points out that a high number, no less than 13 exchange students, were guests in Celle in 2000. Thye would like to have so many exchange students again. They always have to find families who “close ranks, move together and take the wide world into their homes.” This is sometimes difficult. “But there is a lot of potential for host families in Celle,” Rochelle thinks. For example one could gladly mobilize ex-exchange students to become voluntary hosts.
Robert Litz, in charge of the committee of the AFS in Celle, is an advisor for the regional development for school coordination. He visited the Ernestinum High School in Celle recently in order to get the chance to talk about a school cooperation between AFS and the high school.
The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange was agreed upon in September 1983 by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag as a bilateral youth exchange program on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the first German immigration. This program enables students to attend school and to be hosted by families for a period of one year. The advantage of the CBYX is obvious: the member of the Parliament is a mentor for the exchange student during the exchange year. Otte has been available as an active mentor for this program for years.