Twenty-two-year-old Nadine Biscoff and 21-year-old Rebecca Pfahl were attending an English class at University of Paderborn in Germany a few months ago when a visiting speaker happened to mention a German language education exhibit traveling in the United States. The speaker also mentioned a certain American high school teacher named Patrick Wallace.
Wallace, of course, is the German language teacher at Whitewater High School south of Fayetteville, and Whitewater is one of the few high schools selected to host Goethe Institute’s “Germany Unwrapped” exhibit earlier this year.
That’s when Biscoff and Pfahl got the idea to visit the United States, and Georgia in particular, during their monthlong semester break. Both ladies are elementary education majors in their final undergraduate year at Paderborn, and both wanted to do something meaningful and academically helpful in their semester break.
Not long after that initial mention of Wallace and Whitewater High School, Biscoff and Pfahl were on a plane headed this way, accepting an invitation from the school to practice their teaching skills in Wallace’s classroom. Guidance Office secretary Cherie Stone is their “host mom”, as the pair have been living with her during their visit.
Since the first week of March, Biscoff and Pfahl have been student teaching in Wallace’s classroom; Germans teaching German. They have presented language lessons and have spent time one-on-one talking in German with students, helping them brush up on their German conversational skills.
“I think it is a good experience for them to talk to some native speakers,” Pfahl said.
It has been a good experience for the ladies, too, they say. In addition to the in-class, cross-cultural teaching experience, Biscoff and Pfahl have done some sightseeing as well, taking in Downtown Atlanta, Stone Mountain and smaller towns in the area. They’ll be in Savannah this weekend.
This is the first time Biscoff has been in the United States, but for Pfahl it is visit number four, though her first trip to the Southeast. Pfahl says a striking difference between her 2006 visit to California and this current visit is that “people from Georgia are more open and friendly.”
The ladies also shared a few observed differences between Germany and Georgia: 1) “It’s not necessary to have a car” in much of Germany; 2) Atlanta in particular has a lot of “rebellious drivers”; 3) “Y’all like to fry everything” (with the word y’all being emphasized); 4) Germans have sidewalks everywhere; and 5) Georgians have barbecue sauce and peanut butter M&Ms.
As to that fifth point, the ladies say they will be taking an ample supply of Sweet Baby Ray’s and Peanut Butter M&Ms back across the border when they fly home on Apr. 2. At this newspaper’s suggestion, they are considering root beer as well, though they say it may be too heavy to pack.
[Editor’s note: Root beer is worth it.]