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This article was published 10/11/2014 (1925 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A 35-year-old German exchange program is now seeing its second generation of students taking the opportunity to improve their German and live in a different country.
Kaitlin Boyle and Monica Loewen, who both attend River East Collegiate, and Natasha Neustaedter Barg, who attends Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, are each hosting a
German exchange student until Nov. 13. In March they will travel to Germany, where they will live with their German counterparts.
These three students are following in their parents’ footsteps. As high school students, Vicki Toews (mother of Kaitlin), Gary Loewen (father of Monica) and Krista Neustaedter Barg (mother of Natasha) took part in the Manitoba Teachers of German’s German Exchange program in the 1980s.
Krista Neustaedter Barg, who now teaches at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate (86 W Gate), said the experience both gave her a better grasp of the German language and a greater sense of independence.
"I got to test my own wings. I’d grown up in a great family that taught me lots of things but this was the first time, at 16 years old, I was on my own," Neustaedter Barg said.
"You have to make all those decisions, whether it’s to do with money or lifestyle, how you’re going to spend your time. Having gone through that, being away for three months, and doing all those things, I came back with new fresh confidence."
The exchange program was founded in 1979 by Karl Fast, who is Neustaedter Barg’s grandfather, and Claus Hartwig, who were German consultants working for the Manitoba Department of Education. It was later passed on to the Manitoba Teachers of German, who organize the program as volunteers with support from the Manitoba government.
Neustaedter Barg’s son, Joshua, also took part in the exchange program three years ago. Considering her family’s long history with the program, Neustaedter Barg said she’s thrilled her daughter now has the same opportunity.
"It’s been the next extension of our parenting style. We’ve always taught our kids not to live in fear and don’t be afraid of strangers because 99 per cent of the world is good. You just need to be kind to people, you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend. And so the exchange has given our kids the chance to see that," she said.
Natasha said her family’s history with the program encouraged her to take part. Like her mother and many members of her family, she has also been taking German lessons for most of her life and is looking forward for the chance to improve her language skills.
"German’s always been a very important part of my life… so it’s been really great,"
Any Grade 10 student in German in Manitoba can apply to take part in the program in their Grade 11 year.