Twenty Years of Exchange Students

Students from Budingen, Germany, and Tinley Park, Illinois have been exchanging high school students in an exchange program for over twenty years. The mayor of Budingen, Ed Zabrocki, says that he can hardly tell the students apart anymore, they look, act, and talk just like each other. Many of the German students know English quite well and don’t even need any of their school materials in a German translation.

Families and Cities Have Bonded Through Student Exchange Program

Families from both cities have said that they have formed bonds with the students who live with them a few weeks out of the year. Many of the German families have grown so close to the teens staying with them that they don’t want to give them back. The American students act so much like the German students that it’s often hard to tell them apart, especially since many of the teens speak both languages well enough to provide a professional translation into either German or English.

The exchange program started through the German village’s all-volunteer Sister Cities Commission, and has proven to be a huge success. In twenty years nearly 1,000 visitors have passed back and forth through the program between Tinley Park and Budingen, improving international relationships and giving both schools a chance to showcase their schools to each other. By now, many of the students are able to competently offer translation services for their parents and teachers as they pick up the language quickly through frequent communication in person and online.

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