German guests glad in Janesville

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Carla McCann
Saturday, October 20, 2007
— The 11 visitors arrived tired, hungry and very excited to be here.

After being awake for 26 hours straight, a 10-hour flight from Germany to O’Hare International Airport and more than an hour van ride to Janesville, the visitors were ready to eat and settle in for the night.

“I’m tired,” said Madeline Dettling, one of the visitors. “I fell asleep in the car.”

But it was just a catnap.

Dettling was one of the 11 students between 15 and 18 years old from Germany who will spend about two weeks with local and area host families. Their hosts, who were waiting at Rotary Gardens, welcomed the group to the city Friday evening.

The visitors attend the Eduard-Spranger Schule Gymnasium, a college prep school in Freudenstadt, Germany. The town in central Germany’s Black Forest has a population of about 24,000 people.

Charles Friedrich, a Janesville resident who helped coordinate the exchange program with his friend Hans-Peter Hirsch, a teacher at the school in Germany, said Janesville is small enough to show the students a glimpse of what the United States has to offer.

Friedrich, who was born in Munich and speaks fluent German, coordinated the visit here in only six weeks.

For years, the German school had run the exchange program with a Michigan high school. But that arrangement fell through this year, Friedrich said.

Many of the local families stepping forward to host the teenagers had read about the need in The Janesville Gazette or heard it on

Stan Milam’s talk show on WCLO.

Being a host parent wasn’t a big deal for Susanne Pinto of Milton.

Her family already is hosting a 17-year-old girl, Siri Engerud, from Skien, Norway, for the school year.

Engerud was excited about meeting another foreign-exchange student.

“It will be like having another sister for two weeks,” Engerud said.

At 6, Lisa Pinto wasn’t sure how to greet her family’s guest. For awhile, the youngster considered standing up and shouting “boo.” She opted for a more conventional greeting.

Sonja Storzer, the German student who will stay with the Pinto family, wanted only to eat and sleep.

She left Germany somewhat apprehensive about the flight and visit.

“I have never been to America before,” Storzer said.

Mike and Ann Genrich of Janesville are a seasoned host family and had no reservations about volunteering for this group of students.

“We’ve done this before when our oldest son was a junior in high school,” Mike said.

His son and the exchange student became fast friends, Mike said.

Hayley Arneson, whose parents, Jeff and Tina, volunteered to be a host family, hopes to become friends with her visitor.

“I don’t have any siblings, so this is kind of new for me,” the 11-year-old said.

She is hoping to share her world with Dettling.

“She’ll get to experience new things here,” Arneson said. “And she can tell us about her home.”

Last updated: 10:17 am Friday, December 21, 2012

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