In a Government class at Gulfport High School on Tuesday, students shared some stories about themselves. The lesson gave a group of German students an introduction to school life in America. "I've never been before to an American High School," said Franziska Wilke. "It was funny. It's a different kind of teachers."
Franziska Wilke is among 18-students who traveled nearly 6,000 miles from Erkner, Germany, to reunite with their friends at Gulfport High. "It was really great seeing them at the airport cheering for us. It was really cool," Julia Sotzko. "It's very good to see a different lifestyle, and the hospitality from the people is very good," said Paul Schulz. The German guests are from the Carl Bechstein-Gymnasium, a high school in Erkner, Germany.
After Katrina, they adopted the Gulfport High School Chamber Orchestra. The German students hosted members of the Gulfport Orchestra when they performed in Berlin last spring. Now, it's Gulfport's turn to host their friends. The first day was spent touring the destruction from Katrina. "It was a very different feeling to see it real and not on the TV," Jana Szperlinski said. "I was touched. It's hard to see a lot of destroyed houses." How ironic. It was America's worst natural disaster that forged this special bond. "It's just amazing that this came out as a result of a catastrophe that we had," said Billy Ulmer, Director of the Gulfport High School Chamber Orchestra. "That something so wonderful came about, it's really an unbelievable story for us."
And this cultural visit is another chapter in promoting harmony and lasting friendships between two countries. On Wednesday, the German students will get to see the Gulfport High Orchestra perform in New Orleans. The rest of the week, they will be guests at a Gulfport Rotary luncheon, and maybe take a trip to Ship Island. The guests will head home on Saturday.