Three Ilwaco High School students are gearing up for a trip to Germany.
Juniors Alexandrea Carper, Brendan Chabot and Tristan Trudell will join 22 Astoria students visiting their sister city, Walldorf.
The link came about because Carper attends the same church as a longtime family friend, Jim Pierce, a law enforcement professional in Clatsop County, who has lead the Astoria High School project for 15 years.
“I’ve always had an interest in international travel, so when I learned Jim was running the Walldorf Exchange Program, I knew I wanted to go,” said Carper. “I am over-the-moon excited!”
Pierce had previously extended an opportunity to neighboring school districts and a Naselle student had participated on one recent trip. He was happy to include Carper and suggested she recruit up to two friends.
Pierce’s involvement began when he chaperoned a trip years ago. “I fell in love with it and have been going back each year ever since,” he said.
Astoria and Walldorf have been sister cities since 1963, linked because Lord Astor, who financed the expeditions that led to Astoria’s founding, was based in the German city.
Their high schools’ partnership has flourished in recent years.
For one week in the fall, Astoria students host a couple of dozen Walldorf students in their homes. The American students travel to Germany in the spring to stay with a Walldorf family, where they attend school, experience a new culture, and represent their country as student ambassadors.
The itinerary March 19 to March 30 features sightseeing in Munich, including bicycling around the city, plus a visit to the Dachau concentration camp. A day trip will take students into “Sound of Music” country in Salzburg, Austria.
Oberammergau, the location for the once-a-decade “passion play,” and two Bavarian castles are also on tap. The students will then head to Walldorf where they will be hosted by German families.
“Since I am an aspiring architect, I am looking forward to seeing all of the castles and cathedrals,” Carper said.
To prepare, the Ilwaco trip has been working on fundraising. Each student must pay $2,700. Organizers recently hosted an auction and dinner in Astoria serving German-style food; cooks prepared some 500 bratwursts.
Carper said her language skills include a little French and she has been taking a Spanish class at IHS. Since she learned she is going to be traveling, she has logged on to the Duolingo online learning platform to learn some German phrases to help communicate.
Another important element is making sure travelers have European-style electric plugs — which have different shaped pins from U.S. devices — for their cell phone chargers.
As departure date looms, Carper is excited.
“I want to bring back the memories with other exchange students and meeting new friends and learning about the new culture,” she said.